Special Immigrant Religious Workers
Ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations may immigrate to or adjust status in the United States for the purpose of performing religious work in a full-time compensated position.
The special immigrant religious worker category is one of several employment-based fourth-preference (EB-4) visa classifications. For additional information about other EB-4 classifications, see the link to the left.
Non-Minister Religious Worker Cap
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. There is no cap for special immigrant religious workers entering the United States solely for the purpose of carrying on the vocation of a minister.
Sunset Date for Non-Minister Religious Workers
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. Non-minister special immigrant religious workers include those within a religious vocation or occupation engaged in either a professional or non-professional capacity.
The sunset date also applies to accompanying spouses and children of these non-minister special immigrant religious workers. Special Immigrants entering the United States solely for the purpose of carrying on the vocation of a minister, and their accompanying spouses and children, are not affected by this sunset date.
To qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, the foreign national must:
- Have 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.
- Seek 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;
- A religious occupation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity; or
- A bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States.
- Be coming to work for either:
- 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.
- Have been working in one of the positions described above after the age of 14, either abroad or in the United States, continuously for at least 2 years immediately before the filing of a petition with USCIS. 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.
Note: Full time work is an average of 35 hours per week. Compensated may mean salaried or unsalaried.
A U.S. employer, or the worker on his or her own behalf, must file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, to request special immigrant religious worker classification. Both the employing non-profit religious organization and the religious worker must satisfy the requirements listed below.
|Supporting Documents Required for the Religious Organization||
Supporting Documents Required for the Religious Worker
| Proof of tax-exempt status
Proof of salaried or non-salaried compensation
| Proof of membership
Evidence to establish that the religious worker is qualified to perform the duties of the offered position. If the religious worker will work as a minister, provide:
Proof of previous religious work (either abroad or in the United States)
If the requisite previous employment was in the United States and:
If the requisite previous experience was gained abroad, provide comparable evidence of the religious work
Family of EB-4 Special Immigrant Religious Workers
A special immigrant religious worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany or follow to join the principal religious worker or adjust status in the United States. For more information please refer to the “Green Card” link to the right.