EB-4 Visa - Green Card for Immigrant Religious Workers
Fourth Preference, Employment-Based Immigration
- Am I Eligible to be EB-4 Immigrant Religious Worker?
- Definitions of EB-4 Religious Worker and Occupations
- The Immigration Process
- How Do I Apply for EB-4 Immigrant Religious Worker Visa?
- Obtaining an Immigrant Visa Number
- My Family
- Checking my EB-4 Application Status
- How Can I Appeal if Denied an EB-4 Visa?
- HELP! with EB-4 Immigrant Religious Worker Visa
For nonimmigrant visas, see Nonimmigrant Visas for Temporary Religious Workers.
Am I Eligible to be EB-4 Immigrant Religious Worker?
To be eligible for an EB-4 visa, providing lawful permanent residence and a Green Card as a religious worker, you must be a religious worker who for the past two years has been a member of a religious denomination which has a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the United States; and who has been carrying on the vocation, professional work, or other work described below, continuously for the past two years; and seeks to enter the U.S. to work solely:
- As a minister or priest of that denomination; or
- In a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for that organization; or
- In a religious vocation or occupation for the organization or its nonprofit affiliate.
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 such as administering the sacraments, or their equivalent. The term does not apply to lay preachers.
Religious vocation means a calling to religious life, evidenced by the demonstration of a lifelong commitment, such as taking of vows. Examples include nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters.
Professional capacity means that a U.S. baccalaureate degree or foreign equivalent is required to do this job.
Religious occupation means a habitual engagement in an activity that relates to a traditional religious function. Examples include liturgical workers, religious instructors or cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters. It does not include janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fundraisers, solicitors of donations, or similar occupations. The activity of a layperson who will be engaged in a religious occupation must relate to a traditional religious function. The activity must embody the tenets of the religion and have religious significance, relating primarily, if not exclusively, to matters of the spirit as they apply to the religion.
The Immigration Process
An immigrant (also called a "lawful permanent resident" and a Green Card holder) is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of living and working permanently in the United States. You must go through a multi-step process to become an immigrant. First, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must approve an immigrant visa petition for you. Second, the State Department must give you an immigrant visa number, even if you are already in the United States. Third, if you are already in the United States, you may apply to adjust to permanent resident status after a visa number becomes available. If you are outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available, you will be notified to go to the local U.S. Consulate to complete the processing for an immigrant visa.
How Do I Apply for EB-4 Immigrant Religious Worker Visa?
You or your employer can file USCIS Form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The application must be filed at the USCIS Service Center that serves the area where you will work. A petition for a person who is not a minister may only be filed until October 1, 2000, and any immigrant visa issued to such person shall not be valid beyond October 1, 2000.
The I-360 petition must be accompanied by:
- Evidence establishing that the religious organization, and any affiliate which will employ the person, is a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. and is exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
- A letter from an official of the religious organization in the United States establishing that you are eligible as listed above:
- The letter should establish that you have been a member of the denomination for two years, and that you have at least two years of experience in your religious vocation or occupation (explaining, in detail, your religious work and all employment during the past two years).
- The letter should detail your proposed employment.
- If you are a minister, the letter should establish that you have been authorized to perform religious duties in general and should specify which duties you are authorized to perform.
- If you are a religious professional, the letter should establish that you have a United States baccalaureate degree or the foreign equivalent that is required for your religious profession. You must also submit an official academic record.
- If you are applying to work in the United States in another religious vocation or occupation, the letter should establish that you are qualified to work in that religious vocation or occupation. For instance, if you are applying to work as a nun or a monk, you need to provide evidence that you are a nun or a monk.
- If you are applying to work in the United States in a non-ministerial or non-professional capacity for a religious organization affiliated with a religious denomination, the letter should establish how the religious organization is affiliated with the denomination.
- The letter should also detail how you will be carrying on the work of a minister, or how you will be paid if you are working in a professional or other religious capacity. The letter should indicate that you will not be dependent upon supplementary income (from a second job) or charity (funds solicited for your support).
Obtaining an Immigrant Visa Number
If the immigrant visa petition is approved, you must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the preference system (your visa is a fourth preference, employment-based visa). Because the number of immigrant visa numbers that are available each year is limited, you may not get an immigrant visa number immediately after the immigrant visa petition is approved. For more information, see The Preference System: US Immigration Visa Preference Categories for Green Card and Immigrant Visa Numbers: National Visa Center and the US Visa Bulletin.
Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may accompany you in derivative immigration status. This means that they are given immigrant visas dependent on your immigrant status.
Checking My EB-4 Application Status
You may check the status of your application or case online, by phone, or by contacting an appropriate USCIS office. For details see USCIS Case Status: Check USCIS Case Status for Visas and Immigration. You may also want to review US Visa Wait Times and USCIS Immigration Processing Times. For more assistance, see HELP! (below).
How Can I Appeal if Denied an EB-4 Visa?
If your petition is denied, the denial letter will tell you how to appeal. For more information, see How to Appeal if USCIS Denied My Petition or Application (US Immigration, Green Card Denial).
- Have a specific question? To help you find an answer quickly, we have placed "Ask a Visa & Immigration Lawyer" boxes on this page. Simply type a question in any of the boxes to receive a response online from a visa and immigration lawyer.
- For assistance in your country, contact the nearest U.S. Consulate.
- For assistance within the U.S., contact your nearest USCIS District Office or Sub Office. This link provides telephone numbers, addresses, directions, office hours, local filing procedures, and more.
- In the U.S., you may also call the national USCIS toll-free information service at 1-800-375-5283.
- You may also want to seek the advice of an immigration attorney (this link will help you find the right lawyer for your case), or an immigrant assistance organization. A list of accredited organizations and individuals is maintained by the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which also maintains a list of free legal service providers.
For more information, return to: Employment Immigration Green Cards