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Temporary Religious Worker Visas: FAQ

Several people come to Louisville from other countries each year for religious purposes. Whether you are planning to work at one of the local seminaries or serve as a minister at a local place of worship, it is important to understand the process of entering and staying in the country legally.

Non-U.S. citizens seeking to enter and temporarily stay in the country for religious work must obtain an R-1 visa. We hope that the following questions and answers provide you with information that helps you better understand the requirements and processes you must follow in order to secure a visa.

Who can qualify?

In order to qualify for an R-1 visa, you must have a religious-based occupation that takes up at least 20 hours per week. To be considered a religious occupation, your job must be clearly recognized within your religion as an occupation, primarily focused on a traditional function within your religion, and centered on upholding and carrying out the central beliefs of your religion. This does not include anyone seeking to study or train within a religion.

How do you apply?

To apply for an R-1 visa, your employer or prospective employer must fill out and submit Form I-129 as well as evidence that supports your eligibility for the visa.

What are the eligibility requirements?

There are several requirements that the petitioner must meet, including:

  • Proof that you will be compensated
  • If you will not be compensated, proof that you can support yourself and that your organization has an existing program for temporary, uncompensated workers
  • If the organization claims to be tax exempt, proof of such status
  • Proof that you are a member of a religious organization
  • If working as a minister, proof of ordination and qualifications

How long can you stay in the country?

An R-1 visa may be valid for up to 30 months. You may seek an extension after that time, but your total stay in the U.S. cannot exceed five years.

Are your family members eligible for visas?

Yes. Your spouse and any unmarried children you have who are under the age of 21 are eligible for R-2 visas. R-2 visas will not allow your dependents to work.

Should you get help from a lawyer?

Seeking legal guidance when dealing with any immigration matter can be beneficial. Navigating the process on your own can be confusing. Working with an experienced attorney will help ensure you and your employer meet necessary deadlines for submitting application forms and complete the forms fully and accurately.

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