Religious Worker - R Visa

Religious Worker - R Visa

The R1 visa is for religious workers who want to work in a religious organization in the United States for a maximum period of 5 years. The organization must be registered as either a non-profit organization in the U.S, a religious organization that is tied to any religious denomination in the U.S, or a religious organization which has a group tax exemption. Religious workers who meet the eligibility criteria and complete the application process are allowed to work in the U.S in their profession.

Additionally, not all religious workers can work in the U.S in these organizations. Only ministers and those who are directly tied to the religious work are qualified. Administrative and clerical workers or any support personnel cannot apply for the R-1 visa and must go through applying for other applicable visas. Those who get the R-1 visa are allowed to live and work in the U.S for the duration of their visa. They can open bank accounts, get a driver’s license, as well as take advantage of studying opportunities. So they can enroll in part or full time study. They can travel in and out of the U.S, and the time that they are outside the country does not count as part of their total visa time.

The person who is applying for the R-1 visa must fulfill the following conditions:

  • Be a member of a religion for the past two years
  • The religion must have a non-profit organization in the U.S
  • Find a job in the non-profit religious organization, or an organization affiliated with the religion
  • The applicant must be a minister or a person working directly in the religious occupation
  • The applicant must commit to working at least 20 hours per week (part-time)
  • The applicant must not work in other positions except in their religious capacity

As for the non-profit organization, it must be either one of the registered organizations in the U.S.

  • A non-profit religious organization with its own Internal Revenue Service letter of 501(c)(3)
  • A non-profit religious organization with a group tax exemption
  • A non-profit organization affiliated with a religion which has tax exemptions under 501(c)(3) rules or other
  • IRS codes that does not make it a religious organization by definition


  • If the organization is a religious one as per the IRS 501(c)(3), they must submit a letter from the IRS proving they are tax exempt
  • If the organization is group tax exempt, they must submit a letter from the IRS proving their status
  • If the organization has a religious affiliation but is not defined as a religious organization, it must submit these documents:
    • Letter from IRS proving they are tax exempt
    • Proof that they have a religious affiliation
    • Proof that they have a religious purpose and description of their activities
    • A letter from another religious organization stating that the petitioning organization has a religious affiliation
  • Proof that they compensate religious workers with a salary or in-kind benefits such as:
    • Past documents showing the compensation of religious workers in similar positions
    • Proof that they will provide accommodation to the worker
    • Budget documents which show planned expenses for salaries or in-kind benefits

As for the applicant, the organization submitting the petition must provide these documents to establish eligibility:

  • The applicant’s tax returns in the U.S or if not applicable, comparable documents
  • If the employee will not be paid, provide proof that they have the means to support themselves temporarily
  • Proof that the applicant is affiliated with the religion and has been so for the past two years


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