The R visa status is available to ministers and select other religious workers directly associated with a non-profit religious organization. In order to be considered a minister, however, an individual must be officially authorized by a recognized religious organization to conduct religious worship and other duties that must be performed by members of the clergy. As such, lay preachers will not qualify for this visa status.
Aside from ministers, the R visa status is available to individuals holding religious occupations, which includes any position that involves a habitual engagement in any activity with a traditional religious function. For instance, religious workers and cantors, workers in religious hospitals, missionaries, liturgical workers, catechists, and religious translators would all fall under this category.
Additionally, individuals with a religious vocation may be eligible to receive the R visa status. To be considered eligible, an individual must possess a calling to a religious life that may be substantiated by the demonstration of a lifelong commitment to their faith.
Every individual applying for this visa status must have been a member of the religious organization that is petitioning on their behalf for the past two years.
Duration of Stay:
In most cases, the R visa status may be granted for any period of time up to 30 months. The R visa status may be extended for a maximum of five years (60 months) so long as the beneficiary’s work continues and the religious organization continues to petition on his or her behalf.
With the derivative R-2 status, the spouse and children (unmarried and under 21) may accompany the primary beneficiary into the United States and remain therein for the duration of the visa. Anyone holding the R-2 visa status may attend any school in the United States.
When filing normal R visa status applications from within the United States with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (please take a moment to read this disclaimer), our Austin immigration attorneys currently charge the following fees:
- $5,000 attorney’s fees ($3,000 for renewals)
- $460 USCIS filing fee for the main petition
- $1,500 USCIS premium processing fee (optional – only available with site visit)
Family’s Application (if any family is also applying):
- $500 attorney’s fees for family’s application
- $370 USCIS filing fee for the family’s application
- $85 biometrics fee for each family member (if applicable)
Premium processing is not currently available for individuals pursuing the R visa status.
R-1 Visa Frequently Asked Questions
At Law Office of William Jang, PLLC, our Austin immigration attorneys strive to make applying for a visa as easy as possible. Clients come to us with questions and concerns that we want to address before beginning the R-1 visa application process. It’s critical that you’re prepared with all the appropriate documentation, forms, and fees. We can walk you through each step and ensure you meet all the requirements. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.
What documents should I provide with my R-1 visa application?
You must provide proof of eligibility for an R-1 visa during the application process. The documents you’ll need include:
- Proof of the religious organization’s tax-exempt status
- Sources of self-support, such as donations from churches
- Compensation from the religious organization
- Proof of membership
- If you’re going to be a minister, you must provide your certificate of ordination and evidence of acceptance as a minister, together with documentation showing completion of required courses for your specific religious denomination
What rights do I have when I’m in the United States on an R-1 Visa status?
After approval of your application, there are some rights you will have, as well as restrictions while you’re in the United States. You may:
- Bring your spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years old. However, they are not allowed to work in the United States.
- Travel within and outside the country while you have a valid R-1 visa.
- Study part-time or full-time during your stay.
- Receive payment for services you provide but only through the religious organization listed on your application.
- Apply for a green card after two years.
If at any time you want to work for someone else, the organization hiring you must file Form I-129 and any required documents for approval.
What are some examples of religious occupations and religious denominations that qualify for R visa status?
Only those who are a member of a specific religious denomination working in a religious occupation in the United States are allowed to receive an R-1 visa.
A religious denomination is a group of individuals bound by an administrative or ecclesiastical governing body and incorporates the following elements:
- Set of ceremonies and services.
- Shared rules or beliefs.
- Set of discipline and doctrine.
- Established location for worship, services, and congregations.
- System of worship.
Some interdenominational religious organizations could be considered as a religious denomination as long as they are tax-exempt. It’s also a requirement that you were a member for at least two years before applying for R visa status.
A religious occupation is one that engages in activities associated with traditional religious functions. Occupations eligible for an R-1 visa include:
- Liturgical workers
- Religious translators
- Religious cantors and instructors
- Religious broadcasters
- Workers in religious hospitals
Despite working within a religious organization, the following occupations do not qualify for R-1 visa status:
- Fund raisers
- Individuals soliciting donations
- Maintenance workers
- Similar occupations
At the Law Office of William Jang, PLLC, our Austin immigration attorneys possess the experience and resources to represent you throughout the application process for the R visa status. To discuss the particulars of your situation with one of our Austin immigration attorneys, please call our Austin offices at (512) 323-2333 today or click here to learn more about our extensive experience with visas.
Please take a moment to see a sample of approved cases.