The R1 visa is available to foreign members of religious denominations, having bona fide non-profit religious organizations in the U.S., for entering the U.S. to carry on the activities of a minister or religious worker as a profession, occupation or vocation.
Examples of persons in religious occupations include, but are not limited to, liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or religious healthcare facilities, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters. This group does not include janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fundraisers, or persons involved solely in the solicitation of donations.
Benefits of the R1 Visa
You do not have to maintain foreign residence and show intent to return to your home country while applying for the visa
Your dependents can stay with you as long as you maintain your R1 status. They can also attend school
You can freely travel in and out of the U.S. provided you have a valid visa
You can obtain your visa from an American Consulate abroad with prior U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approval
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Requirements of the R1 Visa
Criteria for Determining Employer's Eligibility
To be eligible for sponsoring an R1 visa, your employer must be a bona fide non-profit religious organization, which is exempt from taxation as described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or a religious organization that has never sought such exemptions, but would otherwise be eligible for such status.
Criteria for Determining Religious Worker's Eligibility
To qualify for the R1 visa, you must fulfill the following requirements:
You must be a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S.
The religious denomination or the affiliate to which you belong is exempt from taxation, or the religious denomination qualifies for tax-exempt status
You have been a member of the organization for at least two years immediately preceding your admission into the U.S.
You plan to enter the U.S. solely to carry on the vocation of a minister of that denomination or at the request of the organization, you are entering the U.S. to work in a religious profession, occupation or vocation for the denomination or for an organization affiliated with the denominations
You have resided and been physically present outside the U.S. for the immediate prior year if you have previously spent five years in the U.S. in the R1 classification
You intend to leave the U.S. on completion of your authorized stay