Religious Worker Visas

Ministers and non-ministers of religious occupations may immigrate to the U.S. and even obtain their lawful permanent residence, or green card, in the U.S. The purpose of this visa or category of immigrants is to allow these religious workers to come to the U.S. to pursue a full-time compensated position by a religious entity. This category is considered the “EB-4” category of visas or special immigrant category.

Non-minister workers are a bit more limited in many ways than ministers are. For example, there is a cap of 5,000 visas a year for those that would qualify, per fiscal year. Ministers are not subject to this cap. Also, non-ministers have recently been given only until September 30, 2018 to apply. No such time limit exists for ministers.

For these religious workers to be eligible, they must comply by a stringent set of requirements: 1) been a member of a religious domination that is a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S. for at least two years; 2) be a full time, compensation employee; 3) work for a bona fide non-profit religious organization or a bona fide organization that is affiliated with a religious denomination in the U.S.; and 4) been working continuously in the position for at least two years prior to applying. The time working continuously for the non-profit religious organization must be continuous and be after the applicant turned 14 years of age. Spouses and children under 21 may also apply for the visa along with the principal applicant.

There are two methods in which a religious worker can obtain lawful status in the U.S. in this category and the method listed above are for those who are outside of the U.S. seeking to enter with the visa. If an applicant is in the U.S., they may be able to adjust their status, or apply for a green card in the U.S. However, the normal rules of adjustment of status apply – meaning that the applicant would have to either have maintained lawful status during their entire stay in the U.S. or have been previously petitioned prior to April 30, 2001.

The religious worker application process can be document heavy since there is a lot of fraud that is committed within this category. Further, the laws involving adjustment of status may be complicated so, you should speak to a knowledgeable attorney befo