Green Cards For Religious Workers

In order to permanently immigrate to the U.S., a religious worker must apply for permanent resident status, as opposed to a temporary R visa. This status is under the fourth preference special immigrant category, EB-4, which was created by the 1990 Immigration and Nationality Act.

Who is considered a “Religious Worker?”

Religious workers include ministers of religion who are authorized by a recognized denomination to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by members of the clergy, such as administering the sacraments or their equivalent. The term does not apply to lay preachers. Religious vocation means a calling to religious life, evidenced by the demonstration of a lifelong commitment such as taking of vows. Examples include nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters.

Religious occupation means a habitual engagement in an activity which relates to a traditional religious function. Examples include liturgical workers, religious instructors or cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters. The activity of a lay-person who will be engaged in a religious occupation must relate to a traditional religious function. The activity must embody the tenets of the religion and have religious significance, relating primarily, if not exclusively, to matters of the spirit as they apply to the religion.

Green Card Religious Worker Qualifications
  • The applicant must have been a member of a religious denomination which has a bona fide non-profit, religious organization in the United States for the 2 years preceding his application.
  • The applicant must have been carrying on the vocation or professional work continuously for the past two years.
  • The applicant must seek 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 non-profit affiliate.
Religious Worker Application Procedure

Form I-360 is designed to allow aliens to immigrate to the US who will be employed full-time by a bona fide, non-profit religious organization.

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

Required Documentation for the I-360 Petition
  • Proof that the US employer is a tax-exempt organization (current, valid determination letter from the IRS); and
  • A completed, signed Employer Attestation-a part of Form I-360 which is now required for all petitions; and
  • Evidence of how the employer plans to compensate the religious worker; and
  • Evidence that the alien has been a member of the specific religious denomination for the 2 years directly preceding the petition date; and
  • Evidence that the alien has held one of the approved religious posts (either abroad or in a lawful status in the US) for the 2 years directly preceding the petition date; and
  • Evidence that the alien is qualified for the offered position

Once the I-360 petition has been approved, the religious worker may file his/her Form I-485 to apply to become a Lawful Permanent Resident or green card holder.

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