Religious Workers, EB-4

Religious Worker immigrant petitions fall into the employment based fourth preference classification (EB-4), as noted in the visa bulletin. A religious worker immigrant petition is filed on Form I-360 rather than I-140.

The requirements for classification as an immigrant Religious Worker are nearly identical to those for a nonimmigrant religious worker, with the following notable exceptions:

  1. The beneficiary must show that, in addition to having been a member of the religious denomination for the two year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition, she also worked as a minister or in the religious occupation or vocation during the two year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
  2. Sections 101(a)(27)(C) and 203(b)(4) of the Immigration & Nationality Act ("INA") classify "Ministers" as separate, for visa allocation purposes, from religious workers who will work in a religious occupation or vocation. While the provision allowing immigrant visa classification for Ministers is a permanent part of the act, the provision permitting immigrant visa issuance to non-minister religious workers "sunsets" or expires every two years. While Congress has regularly renewed these provisions since they were introduced in the 1990 Act, it is possible that they will not renew them at some point. There is also sometimes a lag between when the provision sunsets and when it is renewed, during which all non-minister I-360 religious worker petitions are held in abeyance. This time lag can have adverse consequences for aliens who are running out of time in R-1 status, particularly because religious workers cannot concurrently file an I-360 petition and an I-485 application, and there is no premium processing on an I-360 petition. Therefore, minister classification is preferable and should be used whenever possible.

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