Green Cards For Religious Workers

To permanently immigrate to the United States, religious workers have to put in an application for permanent resident status instead of a temporary R visa. This falls under the EB-4 category, which is a special immigrant category created by the 1990 Immigration and Nationality Act.

Who qualifies as a "Religious Worker"?

Religious workers include ministers of religion who are authorized by a recognized denomination to perform religious duties such as conducting worship and administering sacraments. Lay preachers are not included in this category. Religious vocation refers to a calling to religious life, demonstrated by a lifelong commitment such as taking vows. Examples include nuns, monks, religious brothers, and sisters.

Religious occupation involves habitual engagement in an activity related to traditional religious functions. Examples include liturgical workers, religious instructors or cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters. If a layperson engages in a religious occupation, the activity must relate to a traditional religious function, embody the tenets of the religion, and have religious significance primarily concerning spiritual matters related to the religion.

Qualifications for Green Card as a Religious Worker

  • The applicant must have been a member of a religious denomination with a legitimate nonprofit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years before applying.
  • The applicant must have been continuously engaged in the religious vocation or occupation for the past 2 years.
  • The applicant has to intend to enter the US solely as:
    • A minister of that denomination, or
    • In a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for that organization, or
    • In a religious vocation or occupation for the organization or its nonprofit affiliate.

Application Process for Religious Workers

Form I-360 is the designated form for aliens seeking to immigrate to the US for full-time employment with a legitimate nonprofit religious organization.

Either the US employer or the foreign religious worker can file the Form I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant with the USCIS. Filing the Form I-360 is the initial step toward obtaining an immigrant visa.

Required Documentation for the I-360 Petition

  • Proof that the US employer is a tax-exempt organization (valid determination letter from the IRS)
  • A completed and signed Employer Attestation, which is now mandatory for all petitions
  • Evidence of how the employer plans to compensate the religious worker
  • Evidence that the alien has been a member of the specific religious denomination for the 2 years preceding the petition date
  • Evidence that the alien has held one of the approved religious positions (either abroad or in lawful status in the US) for the 2 years preceding the petition date
  • Evidence of the alien's qualifications for the offered position

Once the I-360 petition is approved, the religious worker may file the Form I-485 to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status, referred to as a green card.

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