Religious Worker Visa

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FAQ

Overview

The R visa type is for individuals seeking to enter the United States to work in a religious capacity on a temporary basis, as defined in The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) ยง101(a)(15)(R).

Qualifications

Religious workers include persons authorized by a recognized entity to conduct religious worship and undertake other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy of that religion, and workers engaging in a religious vocation or occupation. You must meet the following criteria if you seek a religious worker visa:

  • You must be a member of a religious denomination recognized as a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States.
  • Your religious denomination and its affiliate, if applicable, must be either exempt from taxation or qualify for tax-exempt status.
  • You must have been:
    1. A member of your denomination for the two years immediately preceding your application for religious worker status
    2. Planning to work as a minister of your denomination, or in a religious occupation or vocation for a bona fide, nonprofit religious organization (or a tax-exempt affiliate of such an organization )
    3. Residing and physically present outside the United States for the immediate prior year, if you have previously spent five years in this category.

There is no requirement that you have a residence abroad that you have no intention of abandoning. However, you must intend to depart the United States at the end of your lawful status, absent specific indications or evidence to the contrary.

Petitions

Your prospective employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For more detailed information regarding the filing of Form I-129, as well as requirements, please refer to the USCIS R-1 Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Worker web page.

Note: Prospective employers should file the petition as soon as possible (but not more than 6 months before the proposed employment will begin) in order to provide adequate time for petition and subsequent visa processing.

Your petition, Form I-129, must be approved before you can apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. When your petition is approved, your employer or agent will receive a Notice of Action, Form I-797, which serves as your petition's approval notification. The consular officer will verify your petition approval through the Department of State's Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) during your interview.

You must bring your I-129 petition receipt number to your interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in order to verify your petition's approval. Please note that approval of a petition does not guarantee issuance of a visa if you are found to be ineligible for a visa under U.S. immigration law.

Application Items

If you apply for a religious worker visa, you must submit the following:

  • A Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) Form. Visit the DS-160 web page for more information about the DS-160.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person desiring a visa must submit an application.
  • One (1) 2"x2" (5cmx5cm) photograph taken within the last six months. This web page has information about the required photo format.
  • A receipt showing payment of your USD190 non-refundable nonimmigrant visa application processing fee paid in local currency. This web page has more information about paying this fee. If a visa is issued, there may be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, depending on your nationality. The Department of State's website can help you find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.
  • The receipt number printed on your approved I-129 petition. Please note that Form I-797 is no longer required for the interview.

In addition to these items, you must present an interview appointment letter confirming that you booked an appointment through this service. You may also bring whatever supporting documents you believe support the information provided to the consular officer.

How to Apply

Step 1

Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.

Step 2

Pay the visa application fee.

Step 3

Schedule your appointment on this web page. You will need the following information in order to schedule your appointment:

  • Your passport number
  • The CGI reference number from your Visa Fee receipt. (Click here if you need help finding this number.)
  • The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page
Step 4

Visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the date and time of your visa interview. You must bring a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one photograph taken within the last six months, your current and all old passports, and the original visa fee payment receipt. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.

Supporting Documents

Supporting documents are only one of many factors a consular officer will consider in your interview. Consular officers look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors during adjudication. Consular officers may look at your specific intentions, family situation, and your long-range plans and prospects within your country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.

Caution: Do not present false documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent visa ineligibility. If confidentiality is a concern, you should bring your documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a sealed envelope. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate will not make your information available to anyone and will respect the confidentiality of your information.

You should bring the following documents to your interview:

  • A letter from an authorized official of the specific unit of your employing organization certifying that if your religious membership was maintained outside the United States, in whole or in part, that the foreign and United States religious organizations belong to the same religious denomination and that, immediately prior to your application for an R visa, you have been a member of the religious denomination for the required two-year period.
  • If you are a minister, that you are authorized to conduct religious worship for that denomination. The duties should be described in detail; or
  • If you are a religious professional, that you have at least a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent, and that such a degree is required for entry into the religious profession; or
  • If you are to work in a nonprofessional vocation or occupation, that you are qualified if the type of work to be done relates to a traditional religious function.
  • The arrangements for remuneration, including the amount and source of salary, other types of compensation such as food and housing, and any other benefits to which a monetary value may be affixed, and a statement whether such remuneration shall be in exchange for services rendered.
  • The name and location of the specific organizational unit of the religious denomination or affiliate for which you will provide services.
  • If you will work for an organization that is affiliated with a religious denomination, a description of the nature of the relationship between the two organizations.
  • Evidence of your religious organization's assets and methods of operation.
  • Your organization's papers of incorporation under applicable state law.

More Information

For more information about visas for religious workers, visit the Department of State's website.