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R visas are a type of non-immigrant visas which are available to people who have been offered at least part time jobs as religious workers in the U.S. by a non-profit religious organization. There is no annual limit on the number of people who can receive R visas. It is employer specific visa and change of job means change of visa category. R visas are granted initially for up to 30 months, with extensions up to a maximum of five years.

An R-1 visa is available to a person who has been a member of a legitimate religious denomination for at least two years and has a job offer in the U.S. to work for an affiliate of that same religious organization. R-1 visas may be issued both to members of the clergy and to lay religious workers.

Religious workers include ministers of religion who are authorized by a recognized denomination to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by members of the clergy. Minister is defined as a person authorized by a recognized religious denomination to conduct religious activities. The term covers not only ministers, priests, and rabbis, but also salaried Buddhist monks, commissioned officers of the Salvation Army, practitioners and nurses of the Christian Science Church, and ordained deacons. The person will probably be expected to prove formal recognition from the religious organization in question, such as a license, certificate of ordination, or other qualification to conduct religious worship.

The subcategory of “other religious workers” covers people who are in a “religious vocation” or “religious occupation” and are authorized to perform normal religious duties, but are not considered part of the clergy. This includes anyone performing a traditional religious function, such as liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or religious health care facilities, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters. It does not cover workers involved in purely nonreligious functions such as janitors, maintenance workers, clerical staff, fundraisers, or even singers. It also does not cover volunteers.

In most cases, people who qualify for R-1 visas also qualify for green cards as special immigrants and may prefer to apply directly for a green card under the special immigrants category of EB -4. If the person is already on R-1 visa, then he or she may apply for green card after 2 years of maintain the R-1 visa status.

A spouse and unmarried children under age 21 may be granted R-2 visas to accompany the primary visa holder, but they may not accept employment in the U.S.

We, at the Law Offices of Aditya Surti, LLC can help you in applying for change of status/ extension/adjustment of status to a different visa. To schedule your appointment contact us at 201-518-6642 (Jersey City Office), 732-750-1269 (Woodbridge Office). You can also email us at