EB4 Religious Work:

There are several different subcategories within the fourth preference and not all of them obtain a green card through employment. The most common special immigrant is the religious worker. Special immigrant religious workers will obtain a green card through employment. A permanent, full-time job offer is required but a labor certification is not.

To qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, the alien:

  • Must have been a member of the religious denomination for at least 2 years immediately preceding the time of application
  • Must be seeking to enter the U.S. solely to work as a minister or religious vocation or occupation which relates to traditional religious functions
  • Must have worked in such vocation, professional work or other work continuously for at least a 2 year period (voluntary service does not meet this requirement). The work must be continuous, but need not be full-time. It does not matter if the work was in or outside of the U.S.

For the purpose of this category, the religious worker must work for a bona fide, non-profit, religious organization or a bona fide organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination. The organization does not need to have ever sought tax exempt status, but need only prove that it is eligible for such status. A religious denomination is defined as “a religious group or community of believers having some form of ecclesiastical government, a creed or statement of faith, some form of worship, a formal or informal code of doctrine and discipline, religious services and ceremonies, established places or religious worship, religious congregations, or comparable indication of a bona fide religious denomination.”

There are three classes of religious workers – ministers, professionals and other workers in religious vocations.

Ministers are people authorized by a recognized religious denomination to conduct religious worship services and to perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy. It does not include lay persons who participate in services. A minister must be ordained to conduct religious worship and perform other duties performed by an ordained pastor/clergyman.

Professionals are those working in a religious vocation or occupation for which the minimum of a Bachelor’s degree (or foreign equivalent) is required. A religious occupation is an activity which relates to traditional religious functions such as liturgical workers, religious instructors or counselors. It does not include support staff such as clerks or maintenance workers. The USCIS is now requiring that a person in a religious occupation must also have formal training established by the governing body of the denomination.

Other workers in religious vacation. A religious vocation is a calling to religious life with a demonstrable commitment to that life such as taking vows. Typical in this category would be monks, nuns and religious brothers and sisters.

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