EB-4 Visa: Religious Workers

EB-4 Visa: Religious Workers


Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.


The EB-4 visa is an employment-based immigrant visa for special religious employees. Ministers/Priests and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations may consular process or adjust status in the U.S. to perform religious work as a full-time compensated employee. There is a cap of 5,000 employees who may be issued a visa under the EB-4 category if they will be employed as a non-minister. There is no cap for employees who will be employed as a minister. Non-minister special immigrant religious employees include those within a religious vocation or occupation engaging in either a professional or non-professional role.


In order to qualify as a special immigrant religious employee, the foreign individual must:


  • Have been a member of a religious denomination for at least two years immediately before the filing of a petition. The religious denomination must be a bona-fide non-profit religious organization in the United States.
  • Come to the U.S. to work in a full time, compensated position as either
    • A minister of that religious denomination;
    • A religious vocation either in a professional or nonprofessional position; or
    • A religious occupation either in a professional or nonprofessional position
  • Employed for either a
    • Bon fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S.; or
    • Bon fide organization that is associated with the religious denomination in the U.S.
  • Have been employed in one of the above position after the age of 14, either abroad or in the U.S., for two continuous years immediately before the filing of a petition.


Both the employing non-profit religious organization and the religious employee must provide supporting documents along with the proper forms. The religious organization must provide proof of tax-exempt status and proof of salaried or non-salaried compensation. The religious employee must provide proof membership, documentation showing that religious worker is qualified to perform the duties of the proposed position, and proof of previous religious work.


There is a similar non-immigrant category of visa for religious workers called the R-1 Visa.  Please note that while the two categories are related and similar, they are parallel and anyone or organization considering bringing religious workers to their religious institution or entities should review them carefully with an experienced immigration professional who understands the process of foreign national religious workers.


Any dependents of EB-4 nonimmigrants, spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, will need to apply for derivative family visas once the principal applicant is approved.