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Religious Workers (EB-4) Special Immigration

Immigrant Visas

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  • Religious Workers (EB-4) Special Immigration
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  • Religious workers (R-1)
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    Religious workers who plan to immigrate to the United States permanently can apply for an EB-4 Visa.

    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 qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, the foreign national must:

    • Have been a member of a religious denomination that has a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately before the filing of a petition for this status with USCIS.
    • Seek to enter the United States to work in a full time (at least 35 hours per week), compensated (salaried or unsalaried) position in one of the following occupations:
      • Solely as a minister of that religious denomination;
      • A religious vocation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity;
      • A religious occupation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity; or
      • A bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States.
    • Be coming to work for either:
      • A bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States; or
      • A bona fide organization that is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States.
    • Have been working in one of the positions described above after the age of 14, either abroad or in lawful immigration status in the United States, continuously for at least 2 years immediately before the filing of a petition with USCIS. The prior religious work need not correspond precisely to the type of work to be performed. A break in the continuity of the work during the preceding two years will not affect eligibility so long as:
      • The foreign national was still employed as a religious worker;
      • The break did not exceed two years; and
      • The nature of the break was for further religious training or for sabbatical that did not involve unauthorized work in the United States. However, the foreign national must have been a member of the petitioner’s denomination throughout the two years of qualifying employment.

    The religious organization must provide documentation of their tax-exempt status and explain how the religious worker will be compensated. Applying for a religious worker visa can be a complicated affair.  It is best to consult with a qualified immigration law attorney if you are seeking to enter the United States under such a status.  Contact our office to discuss this matter today.


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