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) §101(a)(15)(R).
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:
(a) a member of your denomination for the two years immediately preceding your application for religious worker status
(b) 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)
(c) 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.
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/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/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.
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 webpage 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. This page has information about the required photo format.
- 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
Pay the visa application fee.
Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.
Schedule your appointment on this web page. You will need three pieces of information in order to schedule your appointment:
- Your passport number
- Your MRV fee payment receipt number
- The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page
Visit the U.S. Embassy/Consulate on the date and time of your visa interview. You will need to bring a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one recent photograph, your current passport and all old passports. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.
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/Consulate in a sealed envelope. The U.S. Embassy/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. Original documents are always preferred over photocopies and you must bring these documents with you to the interview. Do not fax, email or mail any supporting documents to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
- 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.
For more information about visas for religious workers, visit the Department of State's website.