EB-4 Special Immigrant: Religious Worker


The EB4 category is reserved for a broad group of special immigrants that most commonly includes religious workers, broadcasters, Iraqi / Afghan translators, Iraqis who have assisted the United States, international organization employees, physicians, armed forces members, Panama Canal zone employees, retired NATO-6 employees, as well as spouses and children of deceased NATO-6 employees. EB-4 stands for employment-based fourth-preference, meaning that the applicant’s status is tied to the job at hand. Only 5,000 non-ministers can be issued a religious based EB-4 each year. There is no similar limit on ministers seeking an EB-4, however, only 7.1 percent of the approximately 140,000 employment-based visas granted each year are awarded to “fourth-preference” applicants, of which religious workers are just one type.


To be eligible for a green card in the religious worker category, you must: Religious Workers

  • Have been a member of a bona fide non-profit religious denomination for at least two years prior to the filing of form I-360;
  • Have been working continuously for the past two years immediately prior to filing the immigrant petition: As a religious minister in a religious vocation either professional or non-professional capacity, or in a religious occupation either professional or nonprofessional capacity; and
  • Seek to enter the United States solely to carry out such religious occupation of the employer’s denomination


To qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, you must be entering the United States to work:

  • As a minister or priest of the religious denomination;
  • In a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization (a professional capacity means that a U.S. baccalaureate degree or foreign equivalent is required to do this job); or
  • In a religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization or its nonprofit affiliate. (A religious vocation means a calling or devotion to religious life. Taking vows can prove that you have a calling to religious life. A religious occupation is an activity devoted to traditional religious functions. Examples of religious occupations include (but are not limited to) cantors, missionaries, and religious instructors).

You must have been performing this religious work for the past two years.

Application Procedure

You or your employer must submit USCIS Form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant). The application must be filed at the USCIS Regional Service Center that serves the area where you will work. You must also submit:

  • Proof that the religious organization qualifies as a non-profit organization.
  • A letter from an official of the religious organization in the United States:
    • 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.
    • If you are a minister, the letter should establish that you have been 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 would 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).

Priority Dates

One thing to take into account when determining the EB-4 processing time is the concept of priority dates. Your priority date is the day that the USCIS receives your EB-4 petition. You will need to compare this date to the “final action dates” given in the visa bulletin released by the Department of State each month. When your priority date meets the EB-4 final action date for your country, your date will become “current”, meaning that an immigrant visa number is available and you can move onto the next step. Keep in mind that these priority dates are not the same for everyone. Because there is an annual limit on each visa, that number is spread across several countries. If too many people from one country apply for the same green card, a backlog develops. This is why applicants from heavily populated countries such as China and India tend to have longer priority date waiting times than others.

Processing Time

Because of the annual limit on the number of visas for EB-4, the processing time for it can be quite long. The visas are processed chronologically and in order, so if your visa is the next one after the year has ended and the limit is filled, you will be processed in the next year. Many people apply for this visa and that is why you can end up waiting for a very short time such as a few months or one year or for a longer time such as up to four years. It all depends on when you applied and when your priority date becomes current. USCIS and NVC will notify you when you can start your application to be processed.

How We Can Help Obtain Your EB-4 Visa

The attorney’s role in EB-4 visas is to ensure that the application is submitted in a complete, organized manner, with adequate supporting evidence to maximize the likelihood of a favorable decision. Experience with and knowledge of what the immigration authorities expect from a strong application is essential. You can always start this process by sending us your resume either by e-mail to info@hsrai.com or by fax to +1 415-693-9135. After reviewing your resume, we’ll have a frank discussion with you regarding your ability to secure an EB-4 visa.communicate with you and work closely with your recommenders throughout the whole process.

Our EB-4 visa attorneys experience benefits you in several key areas. We:

  • Clarify options and potential scenarios surrounding your case.
  • Assist you in collecting the proper information and documentation.
  • Correctly classify the application and ensure requirements are met.
  • Prepare and submit all USCIS and Department of Labor (DOL) forms and documentation.
  • Communicate with the DOL and USCIS throughout the process.
  • Monitor the entire EB-4 visa immigration application process.

EB-4 Visa Attorney Experience & Responsiveness that Makes a Difference. Our EB-4 Attorney Pledge:

  • 100% commitment to processing your EB-4 Green Card quickly & successfully.
  • Strong EB-4 Green Card attorney experience & knowledge.
  • Open EB-4 Attorney communication & responsiveness is among our top priority.
  • Highest level of EB-4 Green Card Attorney service at an affordable FLAT rate.
  • Some EB-4 Green Card applications can be submitted in as little as 1-2 weeks.
  • To discuss your case call: (415)-693-9131 or Mail Us.
Something very important you may want to know

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. 1
    The 60-month limit on my R-1 status is fast approaching. Can or should I file an EB-4 application to stay in the U.S.?

    If you meet the all the requirements, then we’d recommend so. Note, however, that you should apply well in advance to account for the time it takes to adjudicate an EB-4 petition and subsequently apply for an adjustment of status so that you won’t be required to leave the U.S. once your R-1 status expires.

  2. 2
    I worked for numerous years at a church abroad as a minister. Currently, I’m thinking of working for a non-denominational church in the U.S. under an EB-4 visa. Can the church petition for me, even though the denomination is different from the one I worked at abroad?

    Maybe. In essence, the burden will be on the petitioning church-employer and you as the prospective beneficiary to show that the governing bodies, beliefs, and practices of the two churches are similar enough to qualify you under the EB-4 category. According to the Code of Federal Regulations [8 C.F.R. § 204.5(m)], the denominations will need to share a recognized common creed and doctrine; common forms of worship, including religious services and ceremonies; common places of religious worship or religious congregations; and/or other comparable indicia of bona fide religious denominations. If the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate this, then it’s very much possible to successfully apply for an EB-4.

  3. 3
    Will my family be able to join me in the U.S. if my EB-4 application is approved?

    Immediate family members, who include spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, may join you in the U.S. after your EB-4 visa is approved. To do so, they can either go through consular processing with you if you all reside abroad, apply for an adjustment of status if they are already in the U.S., or file for follow-to-join benefits in certain circumstances; which would involve your family members coming to the U.S. after you have already filed your adjustment of status or consular processing forms and arrived in the country as a permanent resident.

  4. 4
    Is premium processing available for EB-4 religious workers?

    At this time, no. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not currently accept premium processing requests with Form I-360 applications for Special Immigrants. However, visa numbers typically remain current for EB-4, and adjudication of an EB-4 petition frequently takes no more than six months.

  5. 5
    What is the definition of ‘professional capacity’ for EB-4 Special Immigrant Religious Worker Green Card?

    ‘Professional capacity’ means an activity in a religious vocation or occupation for which the minimum of a U.S. baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent degree is required.

  6. 6
    What is the definition of ‘minister’ for EB-4 Special Immigrant Religious Worker Green Card?

    ‘Minister’ means an individual duly authorized by a recognized religious denomination to conduct religious worship and to perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy of that religion. In all cases, there must be a reasonable connection between the activities performed and the religious calling of the minister. The term does not include a lay preacher not authorized to perform such duties.

  7. 7
    Can I appeal the denial of my petition or application for EB-4 Green Card for religious workers?

    Yes, you may appeal the denial of your petition or application for EB-4 Green Card to the Associate Commissioner for Examinations. You will be informed of the reasons for denial and of your right to appeal.

  8. 8
    What is the definition of ‘religious vocation’ for EB-4 Special Immigrant Religious Worker Green Card?

    ‘Religious vocation’ means a calling to religious life evidenced by the demonstration of commitment practiced in the religious denomination, such as the taking of vows. Examples of individuals with a ‘religious vocation’ include, but are not limited to, nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters.


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