Employment-Based Immigration: Fourth Preference (EB-4)

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Special immigrants are eligible to file their immigrant visa petitions under EB-4, the fourth preference employment-based immigration category.

EB-4 applicants do not need to file of a PERM labor certification application with the U.S. Department of Labor, which saves them a significant amount of time. There are about 10,000 visas available each fiscal year for EB-4 immigrants.

What is an EB-4 Special Immigrant?

The definition of a “special immigrant” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) includes multiple sub-categories:

  • Religious Workers
  • Special Immigrant Juveniles
  • Broadcasters
  • G-4 International Organization or NATO-6 Employees and Their Family Members
  • International Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad
  • Armed Forces Members
  • Panama Canal Zone Employees
  • Certain Physicians
  • Afghan and Iraqi Translators
  • Afghan and Iraqi Nationals Who Have Provided Faith Service in Support of U.S. Operations

Religious Workers

To qualify for EB-4 as a religious worker, the foreign national must be a member of a religious denomination that has a non-profit religious organization in the U.S. She or he must have been a member of that religious denomination for at least two years before applying for an immigrant visa petition.

Finally, the foreign national must seek to enter the U.S. to work full-time in a compensated position as one of the following:

  • A minister or priest of the religious denomination
  • Professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization (a professional capacity means that a U.S. bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent is required to do this job) **
  • A religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization or its nonprofit affiliate **

** As of December 8, 2017 EB-4 visas are no longer available for non-minister religious workers. Congress would need to enact a law extending eligibility for this category, and the president would need to approve it, in order to continue admissions in this category.

Documentation Proving Eligibility for EB-4 Religious Workers

In order to apply as a minister in the EB-4 category, the foreign national must submit certain documents to USCIS. This documentation includes:

  • Proof that the religious organization qualifies as a non-profit organization
  • Letter from an official of the religious organization in the U.S. which details that:
    • The foreign national is authorized to perform religious duties in general, and which duties they are authorized to perform in particular
    • They have been a member of the denomination for two years, and that they have at least two years of experience in their religious vocation or occupation
    • The foreign national will be carrying on the work of a minister, or how they will be paid if they are working in a professional or other religious capacity
    • They will not be dependent upon supplementary income (from a second job) or charity (funds solicited for his/her support)

If the foreign national is applying to work in the U.S. in another religious vocation or occupation, the letter should also establish that they are qualified to work in that particular role.