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R Visas

Contact Johnson & Nicholson Charlotte Attorneys for Assistance in Applying for an R Visa

The ‘R1 visa’ is a non-immigrant visa that allows religious workers (including ministers and other people involved in a religious vocation or occupation) to work in the U.S. for a period up to 5 years and then eventually apply for a green card for permanent residence.

Religious workers eligible for R visas include ministers of religion who are authorized by a recognized denomination to conduct religious worship and perform other duties that are usually the responsibility of members of the clergy such as administering the sacraments, or their equivalent.

The term does not apply to lay preachers.

Who Can Apply For An R Visa In The US?

The R visa may be available to the following individuals:


A recognized religious denomination must have authorized the candidate to conduct religious worship and  perform other duties that are usually the responsibility of authorized members of the clergy of that religion.

License, ordination certificates, formal letters of conferral etc. can serve as the evidence of such qualifications. Officers of the Salvation Army, deacons and practitioners of Christian Science may also be considered ministers.

Professional Workers

These include  people who want to work in a religious vocation or occupation that requires a U.S. bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent.

Other religious vocation includes individuals who want to work in a religious vocation or occupation.

A Religious Vocation

Religious vocation serves as  a calling to religious life, evident by the demonstration of a lifelong commitment, such as taking vows. Examples include nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters.

A Religious Occupation

Religious occupation refers to a habitual engagement in an activity which relates to a traditional religious function. Examples include liturgical workers, religious instructors or cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters.

It does not include janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fund raisers, solicitors of donations, or similar occupations. The activities of a lay-person who will be engaged in a religious occupation must relate to a traditional religious function: i.e., the activity must embody the tenets of the religion and have religious significance, relating primarily, if not exclusively, to matters of the spirit as they apply to the religion.


Conditions for Applying to an R Visa

  • If you are located outside the U.S., you can apply at the U.S. embassy/consulate for R visa. It is NOT needed for the sponsoring religious organization to first file the petition using the Form I 129.
  • However, if you are already in the U.S., the religious organization must file the petition for a change of status, extension of stay, or change of employment.If your sponsor terminates the employment at any time, they are not obliged to pay your airfare to return back to your home country unless they have entered into a contract to do so.


You are eligible to apply for R1 visa if:

  • You are a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit organization in the U.S.;
  • The religious domination and its affiliate, if applicable, are exempt from taxation, or the religious denomination qualifies for tax-exempt status;
  • You have been a member of the demonization for two years immediately preceding admission;
  • You are entering the United States solely to carry on the vocation of a minister of the demonization, or , at the request of the organization, the applicant is entering the United States to work in a religious vocation or occupation for the domination or for an organization affiliated with the domination, whether in a professional capacity or not; and
  • You have resided and been physically present outside the United States for the immediate prior year if you had previously spent five years in this classification.


  • Spouse and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 years can get an ‘R2 visa’ to accompany or join the principal applicant for the duration of the R1 visa.
  • No work is allowed on R2 visa.
  • Those dependents who want to visit the R1 visa holder for a short duration for vacation can apply for a tourist visa, instead of R2 visa.


A person on a R1 visa can apply for a green card after being on an R1 visa for 2 years.

Even if your I-94 date is in future (the date until which you were originally authorized to stay in the U.S.), if you are no longer performing the same function in the U.S. that you were originally admitted to perform, you are in a violation of legal non-immigrant status and that would result in a termination of the period of authorized stay.

Visa Ineligibility and Wavier

There are certain people who are ineligible to receive U.S. visa. If you are ineligible under any of those categories, but the otherwise property classifiable as a temporary religious worker, you may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa if the waiver is approved. If you are found to ineligible, the consular officer will advise you of any waivers.

Get in Touch with Johnson & Nicholson Attorneys for More information on Religious Visas

Contact a Charlotte immigration attorney to learn more about the effects of applying for R Visa and whether you are eligible for application.

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