The R-1 visa has become increasingly complex and more difficult to obtain over the years, due to multiple case of mass fraud. A few examples are cited below:
Due to these and many other incidents, R-1 visas are no longer processed directly at U.S. embassies, and the process is two-fold: 1) A petition must be filed with USCIS; 2) When the petition is approved, an application for the R visa must be made at the U.S. embassy in the foreign national’s home country.
To get an idea of the rigorous requirements imposed please see the following link:
SMA has processed many religious visas over the years, for pastors and priests, Hebrew teachers and choral directors, to name a few. The important thing to keep in mind is that the sponsoring entity in the U.S. must be qualified for 501 (c) (3) status by the Internal Revenue Service, or the petition will be denied immediately.