Working in the United States
Special Immigrant Religious Workers
Ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations may immigrate to or adjust status in the United States for the purpose of performing religious work in a full-time compensated position.
The special immigrant religious worker category is one of several employment-based fourth-preference (EB-4) visa classifications. For additional information about other EB-4 classifications, see the link to the left.
Non-Minister Religious Worker Cap
There is a statutory numerical limit (or “cap”) of 5,000 workers who may be issued a special immigrant non-minister religious worker visa during each fiscal year. There is no cap for special immigrant religious workers entering the United States solely for the purpose of carrying on the vocation of a minister.
Sunset Date for Non-Minister Religious Workers
On September 28, 2012, President Obama signed Public Law 112-176 extending the non-minister special immigrant religious worker program through September 30, 2015. The law allows these workers to immigrate or adjust to permanent resident by that date. Non-minister special immigrant religious workers include those within a religious vocation or occupation engaged in either a professional or non-professional capacity.
The sunset date also applies to accompanying spouses and children of these non-minister special immigrant religious workers. Special Immigrants entering the United States solely for the purpose of carrying on the vocation of a minister, and their accompanying spouses and children, are not affected by this sunset date.
To qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, the foreign national must:
Note: Full time work is an average of 35 hours per week. Compensated may mean salaried or unsalaried.
A U.S. employer, or the worker on his or her own behalf, must file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, to request special immigrant religious worker classification. Both the employing non-profit religious organization and the religious worker must satisfy the requirements listed below.
Family of EB-4 Special Immigrant Religious Workers
A special immigrant religious worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany or follow to join the principal religious worker or adjust status in the United States. For more information please refer to the “Green Card” link to the right.
Last Reviewed/Updated: 02/21/2013