R-1 visa; Religious Visa

If you are a church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or other religious group looking to sponsor an immigrant to come do religious work for you, then an R-1 visa may be an option.

Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers can assist you from start to finish, through the application process until after approval and entry to the United States. We help clients all over the world remotely through the internet, but we can meet in person at either our office located in Minneapolis, Minnesota or our office in Louisville, Kentucky.

The R-1 visa is an option not just for Ministers, Imams, Priests and Rabbis, but also for anyone doing a religious vocation understood broadly, which could encompass a religious teacher, a choir master, a cantor who sings during religious worship, etc.

Requirements for an R-1 Visa

To apply for an R-1 visa, the religious organization must show the following:

  • The religious worker has been a member of the same religious denomination for at least the past two years;
  • The religious worker must have worked at least two years in a religious vocation prior to applying for the R-1 visa;
  • The religious organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and;
  • The religious worker is coming to the U.S. for the purpose of acting as a minister of that religious denomination, working for the organization in a professional capacity, or working for an organization affiliated with the religious organization in a religious vocation.

What if the U.S. based denomination is not the same as the foreign denomination that the worker has been attending?

The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and forbids the establishment of a state religion. In addition, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act grants further protections to religious practice. Therefore, the requirement that the foreign worker belong to the same “denomination” as the American religious organization is interpreted broadly to refer to a shared system of belief. It is not always a requirement for the worker to be a member of the exact same ecclesiastical organization, especially if your belief system involves belief in a congregational form of religious government. That being said, differences in belief between the American sponsoring religious group and the foreign religious group can in some instances lead to a denial (for example, an American Methodist Church would be unlikely to be able to sponsor a Korean Presbyterian.)

Call for a Free Consultation

Our team will work closely with you to pursue your immigration goals. For a free consultation by phone or in person at one of our offices, please call 612-333-3343.