EB-4 Permanent Visa: Religious Workers

EB-4: RELIGIOUS WORKERS

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Who can file and What to File

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An alien, or any person in behalf of the alien, may file an I–360 visa petition for classification under section 203(b)(4) of the Act as a section 101(a)(27)(C) special immigrant religious worker. This petition may be filed by or for an alien, who (either abroad or in the United States) for at least the two years immediately preceding the filing of the petition has been a member of a religious denomination which has a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States.

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Prequalifications

    • The alien must be coming to the United States solely for the purpose of carrying on the vocation of a minister of that religious denomination, working for the organization at the organization’s request in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for the organization or a bona fide organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination and is exempt from taxation as an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 at the request of the organization.

 

  • Beneficiary religious workers must have been performing the vocation, professional work, or other work continuously (either abroad or in the United States) for at least the two-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition. Professional workers and other workers must obtain permanent resident status through immigration or adjustment of status on or before September 30, 1997, in order to immigrate under section 203(b)(4) of the Act as section 101(a)(27)(C) special immigrant religious workers.

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Important Definitions for this Category

    • Bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States means an organization exempt from taxation as described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as it relates to religious organizations, or one that has never sought such exemption but establishes to the satisfaction of the Service that it would be eligible therefor if it had applied for tax exempt status.

 

    • Bona fide organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination means an organization which is closely associated with the religious denomination and which is exempt from taxation as described in section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as it relates to religious organizations.

 

    • Minister means an individual duly authorized by a recognized religious denomination to conduct religious worship and to perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy of that religion. The term does not include a lay preacher not authorized to perform such duties.

 

    • Professional capacity means an activity in a religious vocation or occupation for which the minimum of a United States baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent degree is required.

 

    • Religious denomination means 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 of religious worship, religious congregations, or comparable indicia of a bona fide religious denomination. For the purposes of this definition, an inter-denominational religious organization which is exempt from taxation pursuant to section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 will be treated as a religious denomination.

 

    • Religious occupation means an activity which relates to a traditional religious function. Examples of individuals in religious occupations include, but are not limited to, liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or religious health care facilities, missionaries, religious translators, or religious broadcasters. This group does not include janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fund raisers, or persons solely involved in the solicitation of donations.

 

    • Religious vocation means a calling to religious life evidenced by the demonstration of commitment practiced in the religious denomination, such as the taking of vows. Examples of individuals with a religious vocation include, but are not limited to, nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters.

 

Mandatory Initial Evidence.

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NO Labor Certification Required.

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(i) Evidence that the organization qualifies as a nonprofit organization in the form of either:

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(A) Documentation showing that it is exempt from taxation in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as it relates to religious organizations (in appropriate cases, evidence of the organization’s assets and methods of operation and the organization’s papers of incorporation under applicable state law may be requested); or

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(B) Such documentation as is required by the Internal Revenue Service to establish eligibility for exemption under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as it relates to religious organizations; and

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(ii) A letter from an authorized official of the religious organization in the United States which (as applicable to the particular alien) establishes:

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(A) That, immediately prior to the filing of the petition, the alien has the requiredtwo years of membership in the denomination and the required two years of experience in the religious vocation, professional religious work, or other religious work; and

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(B) That, if the alien is a minister, he or she has authorization to conduct religious worship and to perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy, including a detailed description of such authorized duties. In appropriate cases, the certificate of ordination or authorization may be requested; or

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(C) That, if the alien is a religious professional, he or she has at least a United States baccalaureate or its foreign equivalent required for entry into the religious profession. In all professional cases, an official academic record showing that the alien has the required degree must be submitted; or

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(D) That, if the alien is to work in another religious vocation or occupation, he or she is qualified in the religious vocation or occupation. Evidence of such qualifications may include, but need not be limited to, evidence establishing that the alien is a nun, monk, or religious brother, or that the type of work to be done relates to a traditional religious function.

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(iii) If the alien is to work in a non-ministerial and non-professional capacity for a bona fide religious organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination, the letter from the authorized official must explain how the affiliation exists. A tax-exempt certificate indicating that the affiliated organization is exempt from taxation in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as it relates to religious organizations is required in this instance.

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(iv) In appropriate cases, the director may request appropriate additional evidence relating to the eligibility under section 203(b)(4) of the Act of the religious organization, the alien, or the affiliated organization.

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A Job Offer Required.

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The letter from the authorized official must also state:

 

    • how the alien will be solely carrying on the vocation of a minister (including any terms of payment for services or other remuneration), or

 

    • how the alien will be paid or remunerated if the alien will work in a professional religious capacity or in other religious work.

 

  • The documentation should clearly indicate that the alien will not be solely dependent on supplemental employment or solicitation of funds for support.

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In doubtful cases, additional evidence such as bank letters, recent audits, church membership figures, and/or the number of individuals currently receiving compensation may be requested.

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Upon approval, the petition will be forwarded to the National Visa Center of the Department of State if the beneficiary resides outside of the United States. If the alien has filed or will file for adjustment to permanent residence in the US, the approved I–140 will be retained by the Service for consideration with the application for permanent residence (Form I–485). If a visa is available, and Form I–485 has not been filed,the alien will be instructed on the Form I–797, Notice of Action, (mailed out upon approval of the Form I–140 petition) to file the Form I–485.

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Validity of approved petitions.

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Unless revoked under section 203(e) or 205 of the Act, an employment-based petition is valid indefinitely.

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