EB-4 U.S. Visa for Immigrant Religious Workers

Qualifying as an Immigrant Religious Worker for an EB-4 U.S. Visa


Qualifications of both the petitioning organization and the prospective religious worker are reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when the required petition is filed and by a consular officer during the prospective religious worker’s visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. To qualify as an immigrant religious worker, for at least two years before a petition may be filed on your behalf, you must:


  • Have been a member of the religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the United States for which you are coming to work; and
  • Have been continuously carrying out the religious vocation or occupation that you intend to carry out in the United States.
  • Also:
    • To qualify for an immigrant visa as a Minister of Religion (SD-category), you must be entering the United States to work solely as a minister of your religious denomination.
    • To qualify for an immigrant visa as a Certain Religious Worker (SR-category), you must be entering the United States to work:
      • In a religious vocation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity; or
      • In a religious occupation in a professional or nonprofessional capacity.

NOTE: If you receive an immigrant visa in the Certain Religious Worker (SR) category, you must enter the United States with the visa before September 30, 2015.


Can I come to the United States on a nonimmigrant visa and apply for an EB-4 visa while I am in the U.S.?

Because of the two year requirement, it is quite common for religious workers to enter the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa and file for permanent residence after working two years in a religious position.

Does volunteer work count towards the EB-4 visa work requirement?

No, unfortunately, volunteer work does not count towards the two year requirement.


How does USCIS define a religious vocation or religious occupation for the EB-4 visa?

Religious vocation: A calling or devotion to religious life. Taking vows can prove that you have a calling to religious life.

Religious occupation: An activity devoted to traditional religious functions. e.g., include, but not limited to, cantors, missionaries, and religious instructors.


Who can petition for the EB-4 visa?  Does my employer need to petition for me?

Any person, including the applicant, may file the petition for the religious work visa.

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