R-1 visas are temporary work visas issued to foreigners who have been offered jobs in the U.S. as religious workers. This category is meant for foreigners who work in religious occupations or who are ministers and who wish to come to the U.S. to work here temporarily. They can come to the U.S. on R-1 temporary visas for employment by non-profit religious organizations.
To work in the U.S., religious workers must receive job offers from religious organizations in the U.S. These workers must be approved by religious denominations to conduct religious worship and other duties generally performed by members of the clergy. Religious brothers and sisters, monks, nuns, liturgical workers, missionaries, religious translators, catechists, workers in religious hospitals, religious instructors and religious broadcasters can apply for R-1 visas.
To qualify for religious worker visas, foreigners must be members of the same religious denominations as the denominations in the U.S. they plan to work for. Religious organizations in the U.S. can file petitions for the foreign religious workers only if they have been members of those organizations for a two year period. They must be coming to the U.S. to work here part time or at least 20 hours per week, as a minster or in a religious occupation.
R-1 visas allow the holders to stay in the country for a period of 30 months. Religious workers will also be permitted to extend their stay and the maximum stay allowed under a R-1 visa is five years.
Religious organizations sponsoring the foreign workers must file Form I-129, Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker, on behalf of the workers. This form must be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once this petition is approved, foreign workers can file applications for R-1 non-immigrant visas at U.S. embassies or consulates abroad. If their visa applications are approved, they will be issued R-1 visas with which they can travel to the U.S. as non-immigrants.