EB-4 Religious Workers

Employment-Based Immigration

Summary

The EB-4 visa is available for religious workers or ministers looking to immigrate to the U.S. It is an employment-based green card generally intended for religious workers and other members of a non-profit religious denomination in the U.S. However, the category has changed recently, and the visa now covers several other applicants.

The EB-4 visa is available for religious workers or ministers looking to immigrate to the U.S. It is an employment-based green card generally intended for religious workers and other members of a non-profit religious denomination in the U.S. However, the category has changed recently, and the visa now covers several other applicants.

What Is The EB-4 Visa?

The EB-4 visa is a type of immigrant visa given to individuals classified as “special immigrants.” Aside from religious workers, these “special immigrants” also include broadcasters, armed force members, and physicians. Employees working for an international organization, employees of the Panama Canal, and retired employees of NATO-6 also fall into the “special immigrants” category.

The number of immigrant visa numbers available in the EB-4 category is very limited each year. If you want to apply for this kind of visa, it’s best to start the process right away and have your employer file your Form I-360 or the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.

Who Is Eligible To Apply For An EB-4 Visa?

Anyone who falls under any of these categories is classified as “special immigrants” and is eligible to apply for an EB-4 visa:

  • Religious workers: Religious workers are individuals who have been a bonafide member of any religious denomination or non-profit religious organization operating in the United States for at least two years before filing the petition.
  • Employees of the U.S. government abroad: These are honorably retired, employed or active employees who have been associated with the U.S. government abroad or have worked with the American Institute of Taiwan. For you to qualify as an employee of the U.S. government abroad for your EB-4 visa application, you need to be in the position for at least fifteen years, have a recommendation from the director or officer of the establishment, and your application must be approved by the Secretary of State.
  • Service in the armed forces: These are individuals who served in active duty in the U.S. after October 15, 1978.
  • Broadcasters: Broadcasters who want to live in the U.S. to work for any grantee of the Broadcasting Board of Governors can apply for an EB-4 visa. These broadcasters can include translators, reporters, editors, producers, writers, or announcements for U.S. news broadcasts.

What Are The EB-4 Requirements For Religious Workers?

The requirements for the application of the EB-4 visa vary because of the eligibility of the applicants, but general requirements will always include the submission of Form I-360 along with additional documentation.

If you’re planning to apply for the EB-4 visa under the religious workers’ category, certain qualifications and requirements are mandated to be eligible.

Listed below are the EB-4 requirements for religious workers:

  • You should be a worker for any religious denomination for at least two years.
  • You’re a minister or priest of any religious denomination.
  • You’re a professional or nonprofessional who has a religious occupation. Under this qualification, you should provide documents to prove that you took vows and have dedicated yourself to a specific religious tradition.

What Is The EB-4 Religious Worker Application Procedure?

Besides approving a limited number of EB-4 visas each year, it’s ideal to start your application early as the application process will require time.

As a religious worker filing for an EB-4 visa, you need to go through the following steps when applying:

  • Your employer must jumpstart the application process by submitting a Form I-360 to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • You need to provide evidence of your membership to any non-profit religious organization operating inside the U.S. You don’t need to submit a PERM labor certification, as long as you can provide evidence to prove your affiliation with the religious organization and the legitimacy of that organization.
  • You need to submit a letter from the superior of the religious organization (information on what this letter contains is discussed in the next section).

What Should The EB-4 Religious Worker Letter Contain?

The letter you’ll obtain from the superior of the religious organization is vital as it can significantly affect the success of your EB-4 visa application. Generally, this letter should contain information about your affiliation with the organization and other details depending on the position you hold within it.

Listed below are some of the details that the EB-4 worker letter must have:

  • As mentioned, the EB-4 worker letter should provide evidence that you have been a member of the religious organization for at least two years. The letter should also indicate that you have demonstrated at least two years of vocation service or religious occupation.
  • If you’re a minister, the EB-4 worker letter should provide proof of authorization and the duties and responsibilities you have with the occupation.
  • If you’re a religious professional, then you should have a bachelor’s degree related to the EB-4 religious worker occupation. The letter should also state that you’re a U.S. bachelor’s degree holder or its foreign equivalent. You must submit your academic records or official transcript along with the letter.
  • If you’re seeking religious employment in the U.S., the letter should provide proof of your qualifications for the religious vocation or occupation.
  • If you’re planning to work as a non-ministerial or nonprofessional with a religious organization in the U.S., the letter should demonstrate proof that the organization is affiliated with the religious denomination.
  • Most importantly, the letter should explain in detail the duties of the minister and your wages as a religious professional in a religious organization. The letter should also explain thoroughly that you’re not going to rely on charity or any secondary occupation for financial support.

How Long Is The EB-4 Visa Processing Time?

The number of days you’ll have to spend for the processing of your EB-4 visa depends on many factors. First, you need to understand the concept of priority dates. This will give you a better idea of how long the processing time is for your EB-4 visa application.

Your priority date is the day that the USCIS received your EB-4 petition, along with the necessary documents required for the application. After your submission, you need to compare this day to the “final action dates”, which are released by the Department of State in their visa bulletin every month. Once your priority date meets the EB-4 final action date for your country, your data will become “current,” which means an immigrant visa number is available. This also signifies that you can move on to the next step of your EB-4 visa application.

However, you need to remember that these priority dates are different for everyone. There is an annual limit on each visa application, and this number is spread among many different countries. This means that if too many people apply for the same green card, expect to experience delays as backlogs can develop. This is also one of the reasons why individuals applying from heavily populated countries, like India and China, have longer priority date waiting times.

How Can I Obtain My Permanent Resident Status?

Your application to obtain your EB-4 visa doesn’t end when your priority date is set to current; you now have to work on obtaining your permanent resident status. Being a permanent resident in the U.S. will allow you to work and live anywhere in the country and qualify for U.S. citizenship after five years.

As a religious worker, you can obtain your permanent resident status through either of the following:

  • Consular processing: This process will require you to travel to an Embassy in your home country or a designated U.S. Consulate for an interview with a consular office. Once the officer approves you, the immigrant visa will be supplemented with your passport. This will enable you to enter the U.S. as a legal permanent resident. If you’re not under any non-immigrant status and you’re currently living outside of the U.S., consular processing is your only option when it comes to obtaining your permanent resident status.
  • Adjustment of status: If you’re already in the U.S. under a non-immigrant status, you’ll have the option to undergo adjustment of status to gain permanent residency. This process will require you to file Form I-485 or the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status so that you can adjust your non-immigrant status to immigrant status.If you’re eligible to obtain your permanent residency through this process, don’t forget to consider the cost and timeframe involved.

Can I Secure An EB-4 Green Card After Having An R-1 Visa?

One of the biggest misconceptions people have when it comes to securing permanent residency is that their R-1 visa is enough to obtain such status. This isn’t true. Even if you have an R-1 visa, you still need to file a Form I-360 petition just like other applicants and wait for your priority date to be current.

You also still have to attend your interview with the consular or adjust your status in order to become a permanent resident of the U.S.

Can I Use Premium Processing?

Premium processing is an optional feature available for petitioners to expedite their usual processing time in applying for visas. Instead of waiting for a couple of months for the USCIS to respond to your visa application, paying for a premium processing fee will only require petitioners to wait for 15 calendar days.

Unfortunately, premium processing isn’t available to EB-4 applicants. Premium processing is only available to green card and visa applications that use Forms I-140 or I-129. Since EB-4 requires Form I-360, premium processing for EB-4 visa applications isn’t an option.

Can My Family Accompany Me To The U.S.?

Working in the U.S. can be challenging, which is why it’s common for some to choose to bring their families with them. If you’re planning to do the same, it’s vital to know the qualifications of bringing your family to the country to avoid any legal repercussions.

Generally, your family can accompany you to the U.S., but only after your EB-4 green card has been approved. Immediate family members, such as your spouse and unmarried children below 21 years old, are the only ones permitted to accompany you to the U.S.

For them to legally join you in the U.S., they should comply with the requirements and undergo one of the following:

  • Adjustment of status: If you’re already residing in the U.S. under non-immigrant visa status, such as R-1, your immediate family members can work on adjusting their status from non-immigrant to immigrant.
  • Consular processing: This process will require your family members to undergo an interview with a consular either in the embassy in your home country or in a U.S. consulate.
  • Concurrent filing: There will be instances wherein your immediate family members will be allowed to join you once you arrived in the U.S. as a permanent resident.

What Are The Advantages Of An EB-4 Visa?

Applying for an EB-4 visa will require a lot of effort as you’ll have to compile several documents, visit offices and spend money. However, several people still choose to apply for the EB-4 visa because of the following advantages:

  • Speedy process: You’ll still wait for several months when applying for an EB-4 visa, but unlike other types of visas, the EB-4 has a faster process. When you apply for an EB-4 visa, your change of status or visa will be granted soon after your petition is approved. Testing the job market is not required when applying for an EB-4 visa.
  • Application for family visas: Once your EB-4 visa is approved, you can immediately work on applying for family visas. This will expedite your family’s process of entering the U.S. legally.

Feel free to reach out to the skilled legal team at Reeves Immigration Law Group to help you with your EB-4 visa.

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