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EB-4 Special Immigrants and Religious Workers

The EB-4 employment-based visa is for special immigrants and religious workers. It is a fourth-preference visa.


Who are the “special immigrants” who can apply for this visa?

The special immigrants who can apply for this visa are:

  1. Members of the clergy and other professional, vocational workers with bona fide nonprofit religious organizations
  2. Foreign nationals who served the US Government abroad:
    1. Former employees of the Panama Canal Company or the Canal Zone Government
    2. Former employees of the US Government who served in the Panama Canal Zone
    3. Afghan nationals who worked as interpreters or translators and are facing threat
    4. Afghan nationals employed by the US Government for not less than one year after October 7, 2001 and who are experiencing ongoing serious threat consequent to their employment
    5. Iraqi nationals who worked as interpreters or translators and are facing threat.
    6. Iraqi nationals employed by the US Government for not less than one year between March 20, 2003 until September 30, 2013 and are experiencing ongoing serious threat consequent to their employment
  3. Foreign nationals who have served actively in the US military for 12 years after enlisting outside the US after October 15, 1978
  4. Those who graduated from medical schools outside the US and worked in the US before January 10, 1978 and remained continuously in the US practicing or studying medicine
  5. Officers or employees of international organizations who have lived in the US
  6. Unmarried sons and daughters and Surviving spouses of employees of international organizations (UN, for example)
  7. Foreign nationals who are under custody of US juvenile courts because of neglect, abuse or abandonment by their immigrant parents
  8. Retired civilian employees of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
  9. Unmarried sons and daughters and surviving spouses of NATO Civilian employees
  10. Persons working for the International Broadcasting Bureau of the Broadcasting Board of Governors


How many visas and green cards may be issued under this category every year?

Only 10,000 visas under this category may be issued every year and half of this number are allocated for religious workers. Afghan nationals cannot obtain more than 1,500 visas and only 5,000 visas per year may be allocated to foreign nationals from Iraq.


What type of religious workers can migrate to the US under the EB-4 category?

Up until December 2017, religious workers who were not ministers could migrate under this category. After December 8, 2017, only ministers can migrate under this category other religious workers can no longer migrate under this category.


What are the requirements to apply for an immigrant visa as a religious worker?

The religious worker who wishes to immigrate or to adjust his or her status to that of a lawful permanent resident must:

  • Have been a member of a religious denomination for at least two years
  • The religious denomination must have a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the US
  • Enters the US to work full time (an average of 35 hours every week) with compensation
  • The work is that of a minister of the religious denomination, or a religious vocation in a professional or nonprofessional capacity, religious occupation in a professional or nonprofessional capacity, or as an employee of a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the US
  • The religious worker should have been working in one of the positions after he had reached the age of 14.
  • The religious worker should have been working continuously for at least two years prior to the filing of the petition


Who files the petition for the religious worker?

The US employer (the religious organization or the bona fide non-profit organization) must file the petition on behalf of the religious worker.


What kind of evidence must the religious organization or non-profit religious organization present?

The religious organization must present evidence of its tax-exempt status. It may provide documents from the Internal Revenue Service to show that it is tax exempt and that the organization is a religious organization with a religious purpose.

It must also provide evidence showing that they are able to compensate the religious worker. They must provide evidence that they have paid compensation for similar positions in the past. They may also provide the budget for the organization or the expenses of the organization. If the religious organization or denomination will provide room and board for the religious worker, then, it must provide evidence of that.


What evidence must the religious worker present?

The religious member must show:

  • Evidence of membership in the religious denomination
  • Evidence that he or she is qualified to perform the duties of the position for which he or she is hired such as certificate of ordination, academic or religious education, transcripts, curriculum and other theological education
  • Evidence of completion of the requirement for ordination (if ordained)
  • Evidence of previous religious work
  • If previous religious work was done in the US, there must be proof of salary or compensation received and taxes paid on the income


Can the family of the Special Immigrants or Religious Workers accompany them?

Yes, since this is an immigrant visa, the primary beneficiary is the special immigrant or the religious worker but, their spouses, parents or unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany them as derivative beneficiaries.

They must present evidence of their legal relationship to the primary beneficiary. Thus, they must present birth certificates or marriage certificates. If the applicant is a surviving spouse of a retired NATO civilian employee or a surviving spouse of a foreign national who served in the US Armed Forces, the applicant must present the certificate of death. The surviving spouse and their surviving unmarried children may self-petition.


If the petition for alien worker is approved, what else does the applicant need to do?

The petition, once approved, will be sent to the National Visa Center. The applicant must wait for the notification and further instructions from the National Visa Center. There will be instructions regarding the mandatory medical examination and vaccination. The medical examination must be performed by authorized physicians.

There will also be instructions for the applicant to report to the nearest US Embassy or Consular Office for their interview.


What will be determined at the interview?

At the interview, the consular official will determine if the applicant is not eligible for a visa. The following conditions render the applicant ineligible for a visa: engaging in drug trafficking activities, overstaying a previous visa, submission of fraudulent documents, willful misrepresentation of a material fact.


What can an applicant do if the visa application is denied because of ineligibility?

The applicant can apply for the waiver of the ineligibility.  When the application for a visa is denied during the interview, the consular official will give instructions for the applicant to apply for a waiver of the ineligibility.

Are you eligible for immigration under the Fourth Preference (EB-4)?  Do you help determining or proving that you possess the qualifications to apply for a Fourth Preference Immigration Visa? Speak with any of our immigration lawyers at Lluis Law, we are always willing to help.