EB-4 Visa for Special Immigrants (Religious, Battered Spouses)

It is often that clients come to our office asking if their church or synagogue can sponsor them for a green card or work permit. They tell us that they are dedicated members of their church or synagogue; that many help and/or partake in their denominational services; and that during the week they earn their living elsewhere. Our answer is always, “you’re not a religious worker and a church or synagogue cannot sponsor you just because you are a dedicated member of a religious group.”

So who can get sponsored as a religious worker?

The religious worker visa is available to certain religious group members who are qualified to fulfill spiritual jobs in the United States. Individuals whose jobs merit religious worker visa status must have religious significance and usually involve a traditional religious function. Qualifying jobs include ministers, priests, rabbis or a religious vocation or occupation. Examples of religious occupations or vocations include liturgical workers, religious instructors, catechists, and missionaries. All religious vocations have one thing in common; a calling to religious life such as taking vows as exists for nuns and monks. Therefore, janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, or fundraisers are not religious workers and will not qualify for the visa. 

The job must also be a full time paid position and a position in which the individual who is getting sponsored earns his or her living. 

To qualify for a religious worker visa an applicant must be a member of a denomination that maintains a bona-fide, nonprofit religious organization in the United States. The applicant must have been a member of the religion for the full two years preceding his or her application. The applicant must have proof of the sponsoring organization’s tax-exempt status, its name and location, its papers of incorporation, and its assets and operation methods. The applicant must also have a letter from an authorized official of the sponsoring organization certifying that the applicant and the sponsoring organization belong to the same denomination, that the applicant has been a member of the denomination for the previous two years, and that the applicant has had specific religious training for the position. 

A religious worker visa can be a temporary work visa or can be the basis for obtaining a green card. 

The temporary work visa is called the R Visa. It does not require that the religious worker demonstrate previous experience in the occupation but it still requires a showing of specific religious training for the position. In order to obtain an R visa, the individual must be either outside of the United States or be in the United States in another valid non-immigrant visa status. The R is usually given for three years, but can be extended another two, for a total of 5 years. 

Religious worker visas that can lead to a green card are called EB-4 visas. In addition to having been a member of the religion of the sponsoring organization for the two years preceding his or her application, the EB-4 applicant must also have been carrying out religious work continuously for those two years. 

The first step in the EB-4 application is for the applicant or the sponsoring organization to file a Form I-360 Petition. Once the I-360 is approved, the applicant can apply for his or her green card. An applicant’s spouse and children under 21 years of age may obtain their green cards along with the applicant. 

The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. If you need help with an Immigration question please call us at 214 432 2499 or email your query at info@seemamehtalawfirm.com