The R-1 visa is arguably one of the most underrated work visas available in the U.S. immigration system. The R-1 visa program enables foreign nationals to travel to the United States for the purpose of engaging in temporary employment, as a minister, or in another religious vocation or occupation on at least a part time basis (20 hrs/week).
To qualify for the R-1 visa, the foreign national must be employed by (1) a non-profit religious organization in the United States or (2) a religious organization that is authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption or (3) a non-profit religious organization affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.
In addition, the foreign national must be a member of the religious denomination for at least two years immediately prior to filing for an R-1 visa.
What is considered a religious occupation under the program?
Religious occupations are those whose duties:
- Primarily relate to a traditional religious function
- Are recognized as a religious occupation within the denomination
- Are primarily related to, and clearly involve, inculcate, or carry out the religious creed and beliefs of the denomination
Who may not be eligible for the R-1 visa?
Administrative or support personnel including janitors, maintenance workers, clerical employees, or fund-raisers, or similar occupations that involve soliciting donations. Limited administrative duties that are incidental to religious functions are permissible.
Benefits of the R-1 Visa Program
The R-1 visa is a dual intent visa. A dual intent visa allows a foreign national to enter the United States as a non-immigrant for a temporary specified period of time, but allows the foreign national to retain the option of applying for a green card in the future.