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Religious Workers (R-1)

A “religious worker” visa, also known as a R-1 visa, is for foreign nationals who come to the United States to be employed as religious worker in the United States. R-1 visas are available for those who work as a religious worker at least 20 hours per week for a non-profit religious organization. A religious worker constitutes of one who is dedicated to the service of the religion and its teachings. Those working at a religious institution as a clerk, receptionist, or any other unrelated jobs do not fall under “religious workers”.

Whether you are coming to the United States to work as a minister, or to fulfill a religious vocation or occupation, you will be able to receive a R-1 visa with the attorneys of the Law Offices of Gary J. Kim by your side.

Someone who is granted a R-1 status may work in the US for a US employer for up to two years at a time, with request for additional extensions. The extension can prolong their visa up to five years. The R-1 visa is a non immigrant visa. The R-1 visa will name the specific employer authorized to employ the R-1 beneficiary. If any significant changes in the terms of employment arise, one will be required to get an advanced approval of a new R-1 visa or R-1 petition filed with the Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). There is no limit on the number of new R-1 visas that are allowed to be issued each year.

The R-1 employer must be a religious organization or affiliate. This is generally demonstrated by showing the employer has been or will be recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a bonafide nonprofit religious organization. The employer must demonstrate it has the funds and financial capacity to support the R-1 worker. The R-1 worker’s support cannot be derived from the worker’s own fund raising. The employer must have a bonafide need for the R-1 worker’s services.

In order for a religious organization to employ a R-1 visa worker, they must file a I-129 petition with a R supplement.  Without an approved petition from a religious organization, one who desires a R-1 visa cannot even apply for it. The petitions are thoroughly looked through by USCIS due to worries of fraud. And every I-129 petition will only be approved after it is is followed by at least one physical visit by CIS fraud investigators.


Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of R-1 workers are entitled to R-2 status with the same restrictions as the principal. Dependents may be students in the U.S., but are not granted the freedom to work under the R-2 classification. However, dependents are eligible to file for a change of status or extension of stay on Form I-539 which is the application to extend or change one’s nonimmigrant status.

Applying for a R-1 visa can be a grueling and involved process, so it is crucial to have an experienced R-1 visa immigration lawyer by your side to help you through the application process.

Schedule a Consultation Today

At the Law Office of Gary J. Kim, we take great pride in the personalized attention we provide to each of our clients.  We understand how challenging the process can be, and we will work with you through every step to help you through. To schedule your free initial consultation, call us at (213) 427-6262 or contact us online.