R-1 visas are non-immigrant visas that permit religious workers (ministers and foreign nationals working in religious vocations or occupations) to be temporarily employed by a non-profit, tax-exempt religious organization. A religious denomination is defined generally as an organization having a formal code of doctrine and discipline, religious services and ceremonies, some form of ecclesiastical government, a recognized creed and form of worship, religious congregations, and established places of worship. There is no annual cap on the number of R-1 visas issued to religious workers. To qualify for an R-1 visa, the foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination for at least two years immediately prior to the filing of the petition for an R-1 visa and must also have a job offer to work for an affiliate of that same religious organization in the U.S. The criteria for qualifying for an R-1 visa are essentially the same as the qualifying criteria for religious workers who apply for an EB-4 “special immigrant” visa.
A minister is defined as a person authorized by a recognized religious denomination to conduct religious activities. This definition not only covers ministers, priests and rabbis, but also Buddhist monks, commissioned offers of the Salvation Army, practitioners of Christian Science and ordained deacons. The applicant will need to provide formal recognition from the religious organization in question, such as a license, certificate of ordination or other qualification to conduct religious worship.