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R - Religious Workers

The R-1 visa enables a religious worker to enter the U.S. in that capacity. The R-1 visa is limited to a period of five years.

The applicant must be a member of a religious denomination that is recognized as part of a bona fide non-profit, religious organization in the U.S. A bona fide religious organization is determined by its tax-exempt status or ability to qualify for such status.

In order to qualify, the applicant must:
1) have been a member of the denomination for at least two years immediately preceding admission,
2) be entering the U.S. for the sole purpose of working for the religious organization whether or not in a professional capacity, AND
3) have resided outside the U.S. and not be physically present inside the U.S. for the year immediately preceding the visa request, if he/she has previously spent five years in this visa status.

There are three categories of R-1 visas:
1) Ministers - a member of the clergy authorized to conduct religious worship for that religious denomination and to perform other duties reserved by clergy of that religious denomination (i.e. Rabbis),
2) Religious professional - has a U.S. baccalaureate degree or foreign equivalent and at least such a degree is required for entry into that religious profession (i.e. Hebrew Teachers), OR
3) Religious vocation or occupation qualification for traditional religious function (i.e. Shochatim).

Note that although there is no requirement that R-1 visa applicants maintain their residence abroad they must intend to leave the U.S. at the expiration date of the R-1 visa.

* * * * *
Statutory authorization for this type of non-immigrant visa can be found in Section 101(a)(15)(R) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 USC § 1101(a)(15)(R)) at the following link:
The requirements are further detailed in 8 CFR § 214.2(r), and available at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2008/janqtr/pdf/8cfr214.2.pdfn.

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