Religious Workers Visas

R Non-immigrant Visas

The R non-immigrant visa is reserved for three types of religious workers:

  1. Ministers
  2. Persons working in a professional capacity, either in a religious vocation or occupation; and
  3. Other religious workers working in a religious occupation or in a religious vocation


The petitioning church in the US must be a non-profit religious denomination recognized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

  • R-1 ministers must be ordained or otherwise duly authorized by the religious denomination to perform ministerial duties and been a member of an affiliated religious denomination abroad
  • R-2 religious professionals must show that a BS/BA degree is required for entry into the field and that the alien possesses such a degree. The regulations do not permit an equivalency to a degree based on a combination of experience and education.
  • R-3 other religious workers, such as, liturgical workers, religious instructors, counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or heath care facilities, missionaries, religious translators or broadcasters. Specifically excluded are janitors, clerks, fund raisers or persons involved solely in solicitation of donations.

Other requirements/considerations:

  • For all classifications, the alien beneficiary must be or have been a member of an affiliated religious organization abroad for at least 2 years
  • Affiliated organization includes closely related, inter-denominational churches
  • Maximum stay is five (5) years
  • Spouse and dependent children can accompany the principal

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SR1 Immigrant Visa

What is a Special Immigrant?

Special Immigrants are immigrants seeking to enter the Unites States as

Ministers of a religious denomination

  • To work for a religious organization in a professional capacity
  • To work for a religious organization in a religious vocation or occupation.

What are the requirements of a Special Immigrant?

All Special Immigrant religious workers must satisfy the following requirements:

  1. Membership in a religious denomination having a nonprofit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately preceding the time of application for admission

  2. Carry on a religious vocation, professional work, or other work continuously for at least that two-year period.

What are permissible categories of Religious Work?

  1. Ministers The term "minister" refers to an individual duly authorized by a religious denomination to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by the clergy of that religion. There must be a reasonable connection between the activities performed and the religious calling of the minister. In recent cases the court upheld that a person who served as a lay preacher, without being trained or ordained, was deemed unqualified to be a minister. Also unqualified was a person who had a certificate of the ministry but had no training and submitted no evidence that he had ever carried on the vocation of minister

  2. Professional Capacity Working in a "professional capacity" means an activity in a religious vocation or occupation for which the minimum of a US Bachelors degree or a foreign educational equivalent degree is required.

  3. Other Religious Workers To qualify as a nonprofessional religious worker, the R-1 must be working in a "religious occupation" or a "religious vocation" and the proposed activity must relate to "a traditional religious function" Examples include liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or religious health care facilities, missionaries, religious broadcasters.

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