The R-1 visa is a temporary visa that allows religious workers such as ministers and people working in a religious occupation or vocation to work in the US for a period of up to 5 years.

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


In order to be eligible for an R-1:
  • the religious worker must be a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the US
  • the religious denomination and its affiliate, if applicable, must be exempt from taxation, or the religious denomination must qualify for tax-exempt status
  • the religious worker must have been a member of the denomination for at least two years immediately preceding admission
  • the religious worker must be entering the US solely to carry on the vocation of a minister of that denomination, or, at the request of the organization, the applicant must be entering the US to work in a religious vocation or occupation for the denomination or for an organization affiliated with the denomination, whether in a professional capacity or not
  • the religious worker must have resided and been physically present outside the US for the immediate prior year if he or she had previously spent five years in R classification


A recognized religious denomination must have authorized the applicant to conduct religious worship and to perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy of that religion. Licenses, ordination certificates, formal letters of conferral, etc. can serve as evidence of such qualifications.

Religious Occupation

In order to be considered a religious occupation, the applicant must be involved in an activity which relates to a traditional religious function within the denomination, i.e., the activity must embody the tenets of the religion and have religious significance relating primarily to matters of the spirit as they apply to the religion. Examples include: liturgical workers, religious instructors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters. It does not include janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fund raisers, office managers or similar occupations.

Religious Vocation

A religious vocation means a calling to religious life, evidenced by the demonstration of a life-long commitment, such as taking vows. Examples include monks, nuns, and religious brothers and sisters.

A Religious Denomination generally should have a formal code of doctrine and discipline, a form of ecclesiastical government, a recognized creed and form of worship, religious congregations, and established places of worship. However, if an interdenominational religious organization is tax-exempt, it may also be treated as a religious denomination.


The spouse and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 can apply for an R-2 visa to accompany or join the principal applicant for the duration of the R-1 visa. No work is allowed on the R-2 visa.


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