R1 Visa Petition
The R visa is an unusual category. If you are outside the U.S., the sponsoring religious organization does NOT need to first file the petition with USCIS. You can directly go to the U.S. embassy/consulate to get an R1 visa.

However, if you are already in the U.S. and would like to extend your R1 visa status or would like to change from another nonimmigrant status or would like to change your employment, the sponsoring religious organization must file the petition with USCIS first and get it approved.

Documents
  • Application fee.
    Fee details

  • Form I-129 along with supplement R.

  • Form I-539 for spouse and dependent children, if any.

  • A comprehensive written statement from an authorized official of the religious organization (from the organizational unit responsible for maintaining I-9's) that will be employing the alien has been a member of the denomination for the past 2 years and the arrangements, if any, for salary, benefits, and other compensation, the name and location of the place the alien will provide the services, the organization's affiliation with the denomination.

  • Evidence showing that the religious organization or any affiliate which will engage the alien's services is a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the U.S. and is exempt from taxation in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

Application
Form I-129 is available for eFiling. You can either eFile it or you can mail it.

If mailing, mail this application to the Vermont Service Center, unless the beneficiary is covered under NAFTA (Canada/Mexico). For NAFTA, read the instructions that come along with Form I-129.

Once the petition is approved, the employer or agent is sent a Notice of Approval, Form I-797. And the same notice is also sent to the consulate in your home country, where you may apply for a visa. Some aliens may be visa exempt. In that case, I-129 approval notice is sent to the Port Of Entry (POE) where the beneficiary intends to apply for admission.

If you are already in the U.S. and are changing from one nonimmigrant status to another, or just extending the same status, a visa is not required. However, a visa may be required if you subsequently leave the U.S. and want to reenter.