New Jersey Naturalization

For immigration purposes, religious workers fall into the employment-based fourth preference immigrant visa (EB-4) category. This means they are so-called "Special Immigrants" and may enter or adjust to permanent resident status in the U.S. for the purpose of performing religious work.

Religious workers include ministers and non-ministers. There is an annual cap of 5,000 EB-4 visas for non-ministers and no cap for ministers.

Pursuant to Public Law 112-176, the immigrant religious worker program as it pertains to non-ministers is currently only authorized through September 30, 2015. This means non-minister religious workers must immigrate to or adjust to permanent resident status in the U.S. by that date. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines non-minister special immigrant religious workers as "those within a religious vocation or occupation engaged in either a professional or non-professional capacity."

The religious work to be performed must be on a full-time, compensated basis. Full-time means at least 35 hours per week, and compensation can be either salaried or non-salaried. The employer must provide proof of non-salaried compensation.

Religious workers must be employed by a "bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States" or a "bona fide organization that is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States." Such "bona fide" organizations must provide proof of their tax-exempt status. Also, the religious worker must have been a member of such organization for the two-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition (Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant).

The religious worker must provide proof of membership in the religious organization of which it is to be an employee. If the visa applicant is a minister, proof that he or she is qualified to do the work proposed is also required. Proof of qualification requires an ordination certificate or similar documents and documentation showing that the applicant has been accepted by the denomination and completed any required course of study. Finally, the applicant must provide proof of previous religious work, whether abroad or in the U.S.

Certain family members of EB-4 visas may also enter the U.S. These include spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21.

Speak to a religious worker immigration attorney

The process of applying for a religious worker visa requires meticulous adherence to the USCIS requirements and rules. An improperly or incomplete EB-4 petition could result in delays or denial of entry. Working with an experienced attorney at the law firm of Thomas E. Moseley on a religious worker visa petition can save time and money. Contact the firm today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case with an immigration lawyer.