EB-4 Visa: Special Immigrants
The EB-4 visa is specified as an employment-based green card for special immigrant religious workers. It is generally intended for members of a non-profit religious denomination in the United States, however, the category can cover a broad range of applicants:
- Iraqi and Afghan translators
- Iraqis who have provided aid to the U.S.
- Employees of an International Organization
- Members of Armed Forces
- Employees of the Panama Canal
- Retired employees of NATO-6
- If NATO-6 employee is deceased, spouse and children are still eligible
EB-4 Visa Requirements:
The requirements differ for each EB-4 Visa applicant due to the amount of eligible participants, but the general requirements include:
- The petition must be filed on Form I-360 with supplementary documentation
- The petitioner is able to file without an employer
EB-4 Religious Worker Requirements:
For applicants wanting to file under the EB-4 religious workers category, it mandates precise requirements and qualifications in order to be eligible.
- Must have been a worker for the religious denomination for a minimum of two years.
The applicant is required to be entering the United States as:
- A priest or minister of religious denomination
- A professional or nonprofessional religious occupation. This also includes religious vocation which is a calling/devotion to a religious lifestyle. The applicant must have taken vows and devoted him/herself to specific religious tradition.
EB-4 Religious Worker Application Procedure:
- Employer is required to submit form I-360 to the USCIS.
- A PERM is not required for the EB-4 religious workers, however, the applicant must provide evidence of the religious organization.
- The applicant is required to submit proof that the religious organization is a non-profit organization.
- The applicant is obligated to obtain a letter from a superior within the religious organization in the United States.
EB-4 Religious Worker Letter:
- The letter must provide evidence that the applicant has been a member of the organization for a minimum of two years. It should also demonstrate that you have had at least two years of religious occupation/ vocation experience
- If the applicant is a minister, the letter is obligated to provide proof of authorization and the duties entailed with the occupation.
- If the applicant is a religious professional, he/she must have a bachelor’s degree for the EB-4 religious worker occupation. The professional must also have a letter stating the applicant’s U.S. bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent. It is mandatory to submit an official transcript or academic record.
- If the applicant is seeking religious employment in the United States, the letter is obligated to provide proof of applicant’s qualifications for the religious occupation/vocation.
- If the applicant intends to work with a religious organization in the United States but as a non-professional or non-ministerial, the letter is meant to demonstrate how the organization is associated with the religious denomination.
- The applicant’s letter must explain at length, the duties of the minister or the wages the applicant is expected to receive while working as a professional or other religious occupation. The letter should explain that the applicant will not rely on a secondary occupation or charity for financial support.
EB-4 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.
Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing
The final step in the EB-4 process once your priority date is current is to obtain your permanent resident status. This is done in one of two ways:
Consular Processing – This involves traveling to a designated U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country and taking part in an interview with a consular officer. If the officer approves you, then the immigrant visa will be added to your passport and you will be able to enter the U.S. as a legal permanent resident. If you are currently outside the U.S. and not under any nonimmigrant status, this is the only option.
Adjustment of Status – this option is available to those that are already in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant status. It involves filing an I-485 application to adjust status with the U.S. to have your nonimmigrant status adjusted to immigrant status. This process usually takes about six months and can cost between $750 and $1,225. Those that are eligible will likely want to take these factors into account when deciding between adjustment of status and consular processing.
R-1 Visa to EB-4 Green Card
It is a common misconception that having an R-1 visa is a direct path to the EB-4 green card. However, while the R-1 and EB-4 share many requirements, making you a likely candidate for the green card, it does not guarantee approval or streamline the process. You will need to file an I-360 petition like all other applicants and wait for your priority date to be current before attending your consular interview or adjusting your status.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What qualifications must one have to be considered a minister/member of clergy?
To be considered a minister or member of the clergy, U.S. law states that the person must be recognized by a religious denomination to perform certain religious ceremonies or activities. Examples include: priests, Buddhist monks, commissioned offices of the Salvation Army, deacons, rabbis, etc. It’s important to mention that there are limitations on who can consider themselves a minister. They must have some sort of certification of ordination, licence or other documentation from a formal institution.
Q. What is a religious denomination?
A religious denomination is a community or group o religious believes that have some formal structure include a doctrine, form of worship, specific ceremonies and established worship locations.
Q. What are some advantages of EB4?
One big advantage is the that the process is quite speedy. You can obtain a visa/ change of status immediately after the petition is approved. No test of the job market is necessary in this case. so the entire process can take only a few months.
Q. Can I Use Premium Processing?
While premium processing, the optional feature that allows petitioners to shorten the usual processing time for their petitions to 15 calendar days, can be incredibly helpful for some, it is unfortunately not available to EB-4 applicants. This is due to the fact that premium processing is only available to visas and green cards that make use of either the I-129 or the I-140 petition forms. Because the EB-4 uses the I-360, it is not eligible.
Q. Can My Family Accompany Me?
Your family can accompany you, but only after your EB-4 green card has been approved. These family members must be a part of your immediate family, meaning that they must either be a spouse or an unmarried child under the age of 21. In order to join you, each family member must choose one of three options:
- Adjustment of status – this is appropriate if they are already in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa status (such as the R-1)
- Consular processing – involving going to a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country
- Concurrent filing – there are certain situations in which a family member may be able to join you after you have already arrived in the U.S. as a permanent resident.
EB4 Visa Recap
To recap, there are two groups of foreign nationals within the EB4 category. The first is religious workers (commonly ministers) and the second is employees and former workers of the U.S. Government overseas (foreign nationals). The process is relatively fast since you can obtain a visa/ change of status immediately after the petition is approved and there are no job market tests which must be completed in advance. Review the aforementioned list of documents necessary and consult an immigration attorney for more specific details.
How Our Immigration Lawyers Can Help:
- Our immigration lawyers have successfully handled cases regarding EB-4 Religious Workers and other applicants eligible under the EB-4 Visa category.
- Our Miami lawyers are experts at delivering quality service and filings to properly complete forms and supplementary documentation.
- Our immigration lawyers are capable of assisting clients with the I-360 petition for Amerasian, Widow, or Special Immigrant and the EB-4 Religious Worker letter.