R-1 Visa Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the R-1 visa?

The R-1 visa is for foreign nationals who are religious workers, such as ministers, priests, rabbis, and religious missionaries, and who wish to come to the U.S. to work in a religious capacity or engage in religious activities for a U.S.-based religious organization.

Who is eligible for an R-1 visa?

To be eligible for an R-1 visa, you must meet the following criteria:

Be a member of a legitimate religious denomination.

Have a job offer from a U.S. religious organization.

Be coming to the U.S. to work in a religious capacity.

How long can I stay in the U.S. on an R-1 visa?

R-1 visa holders are initially granted a period of stay of up to 30 months. Extensions may be possible, with a maximum total stay of 5 years.

Can my family accompany me on an R-1 visa?

Yes, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 may accompany you on R-2 visas. However, R-2 visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S.

Can I apply for a green card (permanent residency) while on an R-1 visa?

While it is possible to apply for a green card while on an R-1 visa, you must meet specific eligibility criteria and go through the appropriate immigration processes, which may or may not be related to your religious worker status.

Can I change employers while on an R-1 visa?

The petitioner must notify USCIS within 14 days of any change in the nonimmigrant religious worker’s employment. For the religious worker to change employers, the new petitioner must file a new Form I-129, attestation, and supporting evidence.

How do I apply for an R-1 visa?

The process typically involves:

The U.S. religious organization files an R-1 petition (Form I-129) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

USCIS reviews the petition, and if approved, you can apply for an R-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad (if you are not already in the U.S.).

Is there a numerical cap on the number of R-1 visas issued each year?

There is no annual numerical cap on the number of R-1 visas issued, unlike some other visa categories.

Can I include my family members in my R-1 visa application?

Family members (spouse and children) cannot be included in the same R-1 petition. They must apply for R-2 visas.

Can I travel outside the U.S. while on an R-1 visa?

Yes, you can travel outside the U.S. and re-enter while on an R-1 visa, provided you have a valid R-1 visa stamp in your passport and a valid R-1 approval notice.
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Dana Davidson - Full Bio

Dana T. Davidson holds degrees from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and State University of New York at Stony Brook and has been practicing immigration law since 2003 in New York and nationwide. She represents corporations, individuals, and families in a broad range of immigration matters. Attorney Davidson has offices in New York City and Glen Cove.


  • Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, New York, New York
  • Juris Doctor – 1988
  • Honors: Moot Court Board, Member, Judge
  • State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York
  • Bachelor of Arts – 1982
  • Major: Political Science
  • Concentration: Business

Pro-Bono Activities

  • Safe Passage Project, Volunteer Attorney, 2013-Present
  • Educating the Educators, Founder, 2012-Present
  • Momentum Project, Board Member, 1991-1994 Bar Admission
  • New York, Eastern District
  • New York, Southern District
  • Washington, D.C.

Speaking Engagements
  • AILA RDC-EMEA Spring Conference 2018, Berlin, Germany, Speaker on “Public Charge” panel
  • AILA RDC-EMEA Fall Conference 2018, Johannesburg, South Africa, Speaker: “Practice Management in the New Age” panel
  • AILA RDC-EMEA Spring Conference 2018, Madrid, Spain, Speaker: “El Traje de Luces: Self-Sponsored Petitions – EB-1A and NIW”  AILA RDC-EMEA Spring Conference 2017, Brussels, Belgium, Speaker: “Continuing Blanket L Challenges”
  • Safe Passage Project, March 2017, Speaker: “Representing Unaccompanied Minors: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and the Effects of President Trump’s Executive Orders on Immigration”
  • AILA RDC-EMEA Fall Conference 2016, Speaker: “It’s Not About Money: I-864”
  • AILA RDC-EMEA Spring Conference 2016, Vienna, Austria, Speaker: “K-Visa: Differences Between K-1 and I-130 Processing”
  • New York Institute of Technology’s Center for Entrepreneurship, January 2016, Entrepreneur/Executive-in-Residence
  • AILA Fall Conference 2015, London, UK, Speaker: Impact of joint sponsors on family-based cases
  • Goldman-Sachs 10,000 Small Business Education Program, October 2014, “What is required to grow a business?”
  • Dowling College, May 2013, Keynote Speaker at the first annual Latino Summit at Dowling College
  • International Taxation Conference, 2010