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An R-1 nonimmigrant (i.e. temporary) visa is reserved for foreign nationals who are coming to the U.S. to work in a religious occupation. Most R-1 cases are filed for ministers or priests, but other religious-related positions also qualify for an R-1 visa including missionaries, kosher chefs, and shilpi builders of Hindu temples.

In order to qualify for the R-1 visa, the religious worker must have been a member of the related religious denomination for at least two years immediately preceding the date that the religious organization files the R-1 petition for the worker. This petition is made on the Form I-129 and is filed by the organization with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The organizations that sponsor religious workers are usually churches, synagogues, and temples.

The I-129 Petition must include proof of the religious worker’s membership in the appropriate denomination, proof of the sponsoring organization’s tax-exempt status, an explanation of the worker’s proposed duties and qualifications to perform those duties, and evidence that the organization will be able to compensate the worker during the worker’s stay in the United States.

If USCIS approves the I-129 Petition, the worker will be given a visa that is valid for up to 30 months. Once this visa expires, the worker can apply to extend it by an additional 30 months, but the worker’s cumulative period of stay in the U.S. in R-1 status may not exceed 60 months.

Additionally, while the R-1 visa is temporary, there is an option for the religious worker to qualify for U.S. permanent residence (a green card). The organization can file a different petition with USCIS called the I-360 Petition.

At the Callan Law Firm, P.C., our experienced attorneys are happy to explain the R-1 and I-360 processes to you in detail, and to answer any questions you may have about these petitions. We are also available to review a prospective R-1 worker’s qualifications and to give you a professional opinion on the worker’s eligibility for the visa. Contact our office today to speak to one of our knowledgeable attorneys about the R-1 visa!