R-1 Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers
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R-1 Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers

"Apsan Law Offices has been assisting religious organization bring in their religious workers and Obtain Green cards for  Special Immigrants Religious workers for the last 30 years.  Our experience can help your organization through this very complicated process."

An R-1 is a foreign national who is coming to the United States temporarily to be employed at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week) by a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States) to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify, the foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the petition.

Every petition for an R-1 worker must be filed by a prospective or existing U.S. employer through the filing of a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.  An R-1 visa cannot be issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad without prior approval of Form I-129 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  If the foreign national is visa-exempt (e.g. Canadian), he or she must present the original Form I-797, Notice of Action, reflecting an approval of a valid I-129 R petition at a port of entry.  There are certain general requirements which must be satisfied by the petitioning organization as well as by the religious worker, the beneficiary of the petition.  These requirements are listed in the chart below.

The petitioning employer must submit Form I-129 including the R-1 Classification Supplement signed by the employer as well as the following supporting documents:

Supporting Documents Required for the Religious Organization

Supporting Documents Required for the Religious Worker


Proof of tax-exempt status

  • If the religious organization has its own individual IRS 501(c)(3) letter, provide a currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the organization is a tax-exempt organization
  • If the organization is recognized as tax-exempt under a group tax-exemption, provide a group ruling
  • If the organization is affiliated with the religious denomination, provide:
    • A currently valid determination letter from the IRS;
    • Documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization;
    • Organizational literature; and
    • A religious denomination certification, which is part of the R-1 Classification Supplement to Form I-129 (see the links to the right).

Proof of salaried or non-salaried compensation

  • Verifiable evidence of how the organization intends to compensate the religious worker, including specific monetary or in-kind compensation.  Evidence of compensation may include:
    • Past evidence of compensation for similar positions
    • Budgets showing monies set aside for salaries, leases, etc.
    • Evidence that room and board will be provided to the religious worker
    • If IRS documentation, such as IRS Form W-2 or certified tax returns, is available, it must be provided
    • If IRS documentation is not available, an explanation for its absence must be provided, along with comparable, verifiable documentation

 If the religious worker will be self-supporting

  • Documents that establish the religious worker will hold a position that is part of an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work, which is part of a broader international program of missionary work sponsored by the denomination
  • Evidence that establishes that the organization has an established program for temporary, uncompensated missionary work in which:
    • Foreign workers, whether compensated or uncompensated, have previously participated in R-1 status;
    • Missionary workers are traditionally uncompensated;
    • The organization provides formal training for missionaries; and
    • Participation in such missionary work is an established element of religious development in that denomination.
  • Evidence that establishes that the organization’s religious denomination maintains missionary programs both in the United States and abroad
  • Evidence of the religious worker’s acceptance into the missionary program
  • Evidence of the duties and responsibilities associated with this traditionally uncompensated missionary work
  • Copies of the religious worker’s bank records, budgets documenting the sources of self-support (including personal or family savings, room and board with host families in the United States, donations from the denomination’s churches), or other verifiable evidence acceptable to USCIS

Proof of membership

  • Evidence that the religious worker is a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of Form I-129

If the religious worker will be working as a minister, provide:

  • A copy of the religious worker’s certificate of ordination or similar documents
  • Documents reflecting acceptance of the religious worker’s qualification as a minister in the religious denomination, as well as evidence that the religious worker has completed any course of prescribed theological education at an accredited theological institution normally required or recognized by that religious denomination.  Include transcripts, curriculum, and documentation that establishes that the theological institution is accredited by the denomination
  • If the denominations do not require a prescribed theological education, provide:
    • The religious denomination’s requirements for ordination to minister
    • A list of duties performed by virtue of ordination
    • The denomination’s levels of ordination, if any, and
    • Evidence of the religious worker’s completion of the denomination’s requirements for ordination

Proof of previous R-1 employment (for extension of stay as an R-1)

  • If you received salaried compensation, provide IRS documentation that you received a salary, such as an IRS Form W-2 or certified copies of filed income tax returns reflecting such work and compensation for the previous R-1 employment
  • If you received non-salaried compensation:
    • If IRS documentation is available, provide IRS documentation of the non-salaried compensation
    • If IRS documentation is not available, provide an explanation for the absence of IRS documentation and verifiable evidence of all financial support, including stipends, room and board, or other support for you with a description of the location where you lived, a lease to establish where you lived, or other evidence acceptable to USCIS
  • If you received no salary but provided for your own support and that of any dependents, provide verifiable documents to show how support was maintained, such as audited financial statements, financial institution records, brokerage account statements, trust documents signed by an attorney, or other evidence acceptable to USCIS



Period of Stay

An R-1 status may be granted for an initial period of admission for up to 30 months.  An extension of an R-1 status may be granted for up to an additional 30 months.  The total stay in the United States in an R-1 status cannot exceed 60 months (5 years).

Family of R-1 Visa Holders

R-1 worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification.  The dependents of an R-1 worker may not accept employment while in the United States in R-2 status.

Green Cards

For information about petitioning for a permanent immigrant religious worker.

Last updated: 11/03/2009

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    Moses Apsan and his staff, based in New York City and Newark, NJ provide exceptional legal services throughout the world, in all aspects of immigration to the United States, including non-immigrant (temporary visas), immigrant visa (Green Card) and deportation defense. In addition Mr. Apsan, has been practicing Bankruptcy law and Divorce laws for over 35 years, He was the President of the Federal Bar Association, New Jersey Chapter (1997-2002). He speaks Portuguese and Spanish..

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