dsc01850♦ EB-4 Special Immigrants

As the fourth preference of employment-Based immigrant petitions, EB-4 Special Immigrants include nine different categories. They are Religious Workers, Broadcasters, Iraqi/Afghan, Iraqis who have assisted the United States,  Translators, International Organization Employees, Physicians, Armed Forces Members, Panama Canal Zone Employees, Retired NATO-6 employees, and Spouses and Children of Deceased NATO-6 employees. Most of them are not very commonly used.


♦ Religious Workers

The Religious Worker category is one of EB-4 special immigrants classifications. There are two classifications under Religious Workers, i.e Ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations. Both classifications may immigrate to or adjust status in the United States for the purpose of performing religious work in a full-time compensated position.

* Note: Full time work is an average of 35 hours per week. Compensated may mean salaried or unsalaried.


♦ Special Rules for Non-Minister Religious Worker Cap

  • Non-minister special immigrant religious workers  It includes those within a religious vocation or occupation engaged in either a professional or non-professional capacity.
  • Statutory Cap  Different from Minister Religious Workers, there is a statutory numerical limit (or “cap”) of 5,000 workers who may be issued a special immigrant non-minister religious worker visa during each fiscal year.
  • Sunset Date  Non-minister special immigrant religious workers are affected by sunset date. On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed Public Law 114-113 extending the non-minister special immigrant religious worker program through September 30, 2016. The law allows these workers to immigrate or adjust to permanent resident by that date. The sunset date also applies to accompanying spouses and children of these non-minister special immigrant religious workers.

♦ Eligibility of Religious Workers

In order to qualify an alien religious worker as a special immigrant religious worker, the petitioners need to show:

  1. The petitioner is 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.
  2. The alien religious worker has 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.
  3. The alien religious worker seeks to enter the United States to work in a full time, compensated 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; or
    • A religious occupation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity.
  4. The alien religious worker since the age of 14 has been working as a minister, a religious vacation or a religious occupation either abroad or in the United States continuously for at least 2 years immediately before the filing of a petition with USCIS.
  5. 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. However, the foreign national must have been a member of the petitioner’s denomination throughout the two years of qualifying employment.

♦ Key Documents for a Successful Special Immigrant Petition for a Minister

  1. IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt letter for the petitioner or a group that the Petitioner belongs to with an exception: when the petitioner is affiliated with the religious denomination and lack of an individual or group IRS tax-exempt determination letter, the petitioner need to provide (a) IRS tax-exempt determination letter for the religious denomination; (b) documentation regarding the petitioner’s religious nature and purpose; (c) organizational literature; and (d) religious denomination certification.
  2. Documentation of salaried or non-salaried compensation, including specific monetary or in-kind compensation. In practice, the evidence may include: (a) past evidence of compensation for similar positions; (b) Budgets showing monies set aside for salaries, leases, etc.; (c) Evidence that room and board will be provided to the religious worker; and (4) If IRS documentation, such as IRS Form W-2 or certified tax returns, is available, it must be provided.
  3. Documentation of the alien religious worker’s at least 2 years of membership with a religious denomination. The two years of membership must be immediately before the filing of immigrant petition.
  4. Documentation of the alien religious worker’s qualifications for Minister. The evidence of qualifications include: (a) the religious worker’s certificate of ordination or similar documents; (b) acceptance letter to the alien as a minister in the religious denomination; and (c) completion certification to the alien regarding courses of prescribed theological education at an accredited theological institution normally required or recognized by that religious denomination.* Note: if a prescribed theological education is not required to be a minister, the qualification documents may include: (a) the religious denomination’s requirements for ordination to minister; (b) a list of duties performed by virtue of ordination; (c) the denomination’s levels of ordination, if any; and (d) Evidence of the religious worker’s completion of the denomination’s requirements for ordination.
  5. Documents of the alien religious worker’s previous employment in the US or overseas. Examples of evidence for the US employment are (a) if salaried compensation, like W-2 or certified copies of filed income tax returns reflecting such work and compensation for the prior employment;  or (b) if non-salaried, like audited financial statements, financial institution records, brokerage account statements, trust documents signed by an attorney, or other verifiable evidence.