Religious workers may work in the U.S. on a temporary basis with R visas. The R visas are non-immigrant visas different from immigrant religious worker visas (EB-4) and have different qualifications. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the R visas are reserved for three types of religious workers: ministers, persons working in a professional capacity, and other religious workers.

  1. Ministers for the R visa are ordained or authorized by the religious denomination to perform religious ceremonies. Ministers can be reverends, priests, or Buddhist monks.
  1. Persons working in a professional capacity are religious professionals who have a Bachelor’s degree for entry into the field. I.e. Choir directors or accompanists with bachelor of music degrees.
  1. Other religious workers are persons who work in a religious vocation or occupation which doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree such as religious translators or broadcasters.

The applicant for the R visa must demonstrate that he or she has been a member of the denomination for at least two years prior to applying for religious worker status. The inviting religious denomination must be registered as a non-profit organization eligible for tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and must show sufficient financial capability to invite the applicant. The initial stay for an R visa is normally granted for 30 months, and an additional 30 month extension is allowed. Thus, the R visa holders can stay for up to a total of 5 years. The R visa holders must work for the inviting religious organization.