r1 visa guide
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By Eddie Tamrakar
Senior Immigration Paralegal

Goodnews for Religious Workers Back Home to Get A Work Visa to the United States

Welcome to our August 2023 edition of the Zepeda Law Firm Immigration Newsletter. This month, we’re focusing on the R-1 visa. The R1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa allowing foreign nationals who are working as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation to work in the U.S. for a period of up to 5 years.        

Contact our office so that we may help you or the company you wish to work for withthis process. This is one of the many pathways to finding an opportunity towork in the U.S. Please spread the news to your families and friends in your foreign countries.

R1Visa Requirements

  • Affiliation: The applicant must be a member of a religiousdenomination that has a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S.
  • Employment History: The applicant must have been working for a religious group for at least 2 years.
  • Job Role in the U.S.: The position offered in the U.S. must be either a religious vocation,professional position in a religious vocation, or a religious occupation.
  • Support Documentation: Proof that the religious organization qualifies as a non-profit, a letter confirming the applicant’s membership and job offer, etc.
  • Maintain Residence Abroad:The applicant must intend to leave the U.S. once the visa period is over.


  • Filing of I-129 Petition: This petition is usually processed in 4-6 months. Premium processing (15 calendar days) is available for an additional fee.
  • Wait Time After Approval: After approval of I-129, the applicant can apply for an R1 visa at a U.S. consulate. This may take additional weeks to months, varying by location.

Please note that processing times can vary based on caseload and other factors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. How long can I stay in the U.S. with an R1 Visa?

Initially, the R1 visa is granted for a period of 30 months. Extensions are possible   for up to a maximum of 5 years.

2. Can my family accompany me?

Yes, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 can accompany you on an R2 dependent visa.

3. Can I change employers on an R1 visa?

Yes, but the new employer must file a new I-129 petition on your behalf.

4. Is there a pathway to a Green Card from an R1 Visa?

Yes, after two years of employment on an R1 visa, you may be eligible to apply for a green card under the EB-4 visa category.

5. Do I have to return to my home country when my R1 visa expires?

Yes, unless you adjust status or change to another visa category.

6. Can I study while on an R1 visa?

Yes, incidental study is permitted. However, studying should not be the primary purpose of your stay.

7. How does Premium Processing work?

By paying an additional fee, the USCIS ensures a response (approval, denial, or request for evidence) within 15 calendar days.

8. What if my R1 visa application is denied?

You can consult with an immigration attorney to evaluate potential reasons for denial and consider reapplying or seeking another visa type.

Fun Facts !

  • Historical Context: The R1 visa has its roots in earlier U.S. immigration laws that made provisions for ministers and religious workers.
  • Numbers Game: While the exact numbers vary annually, thousands of religious workers come to the U.S. on R1 visas each year.
  • Diversity in Faith: R1 visa holders represent a vast array of religious beliefs, reflecting the rich tapestry of global faith traditions.
  • Beneficial Impact: Many R1 visa holders participate in community outreach, providing both spiritual and material assistance to those in need in the U.S.

Thank you for reading our R1 Visa Bulletin! We hope this helps you on your journey to understanding and potentially obtaining this visa. For further questions or personalized advice, consider consulting with our law firm.


  1. https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/temporary-workers/r-1-nonimmigrant-religious-workers
  2. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/other-visa-categories/temporary-religious-worker.html
  3. https://www.ashoorilaw.com/r1-visa/

Picture source; https://www.ashoorilaw.com/r1-visa/

About the Author
Eddie joined the Zepeda Law Firm in 2022, with over 8 years of experience. Born amidst the scenic landscapes of Nepal, Aatithya Raj Tamrakar knows all too well the challenges and aspirations of the immigrant experience. His own journey from the towering Himalayas to the United States has been one of grit, determination, and unwavering spirit. Upon his arrival to the U.S., Aatithya didn’t just witness the complexities of immigration but lived them. His firsthand experience made him deeply empathetic towards others navigating the intricate labyrinth of immigration laws.