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The EB-4 Status is available to ministers and others in religious occupation and religious vocation. To qualify as a minister, the individual must be authorized by a recognized denomination to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by members of the clergy.

Aside from being a minister, or a member of the clergy, potentially qualified under this category are the “other religious workers”. That is, workers in a “religious vocation” or “religious occupation”. Religious occupation means a habitual engagement in an activity which relates to a traditional religious function.. Religious vocation means a calling to religious life, shown by a demonstration of a lifelong commitments, such as taking of vows. Examples include nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters

These workers, while being authorized to perform normal religious duties, are not actually serving as a part of the clergy. This subcategory includes liturgical workers, religious instructors, religious counselors, cantors, catechists, workers in the religious hospitals or religious health care facilities, religious translators, missionaries, or religious broadcasters. This does not include workers performing non-religious functions though such as clerical staff, maintenance workers, or even singers. Volunteers do not qualify for the same category too. Religious workers are also required by the USCIS to be working in a permanent salaried position within the organization, assigned with only religious duties.

For non-minister religious workers, there is a cap of 5,000 visas to be issued every fiscal year while there is non for special immigrant religious workers entering the U.S. for the purpose of carrying on the vocation of a minister.

Current law affecting the issuance of the EB-3 Visa is the Public Law 112-176 signed by President Obama on September 28, 2012, extending the non-minister special immigrant religious worker program through September 30, 2015.


To qualify the foreign national must:

  1. have been a member of this religious denomination for at least two years prior to applying for admission to the United States.  Furthermore, the petitioning church must have received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the IRS.  Spouses and children below 21 years of age are qualified to obtain green cards if accompanying the main beneficiary.
  2. seek to enter the United States to work in a full time (average of at least 35 hours per week) compensated position for a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S;
  3. be a minister of a religious denomination;
  4. be in a religious vocation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity;
  5. be in a religious occupation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity;
  6. have been a member of a religious denomination that has a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately preceding the filing of a petition for this status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”);
  7. have been working in one of the positions described above, either abroad or in lawful immigration status in the United States, and after the age of 14 years continuously for at least two years immediately preceding the filing of a petition with USCIS.


There are certain general requirements which must be satisfied by the religious worker as well as by the employing nonprofit religious organization.  These requirements are as follows:


Proof of tax-exempt status—(a) If the religious organization has its own individual IRS 501(c)(3) letter, provide a currently valid determination letter from the IRS establishing that the organization is a tax-exempt organization; (b) If the organization is recognized as tax-exempt under a group tax-exemption, provide a currently valid IRS group tax-exemption determination letter; (c) If the organization is affiliated with the religious denomination, provide a currently valid determination letter from the IRS that the organization is tax-exempt, documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization, organizational literature, a religious denomination certification, part of the Form I-360

As a part of the Form I-360, the U.S. based employer must attest the following:

  1. The employer is a bona fide non-profit religious organization, or affiliate with the religious denomination;
  2. To the number of members of the organization;
  3. To the number of employees working at the same location as a beneficiary; and a summary of the responsibilities of these employees;
  4. To the number of employees holding a special immigrant or R-1 status, currently or within the last five (5) years;
  5. To the number of I-360 and R-1 petitions filed by the employer in the last five years;
  6. The title and position offered to the individual;
  7. The complete package or salaried or non-salaried compensation, and a description of the daily duties;
  8. That the individual will be employed at least 35 hours a week;
  9. To the location of the employment;
  10. That the individual has been a member of the denomination for at least the immediate past two (2) years, and that the individual has worked as a religious worker for the immediate past two (2) years;
  11. That the individual will not engage in secular employment; and that any compensation will be paid by the attesting religious organization employer;
  12. That the employer has the ability and intention to compensate the individual, and the family will not become public charges; and,
  13. The funds to pay the individual do not include any monies obtained from the individual.


Proof of salaried or non-salaried compensation—(a) Verifiable evidence of how the organization intends to compensate the religious worker, including specific monetary or in-kind compensation. Evidence of compensation may include past evidence of compensation for similar positions, budgets showing monies set aside for salaries, leases, etc., evidence that room and board will be provided to the religious worker, if IRS documentation, such as IRS Form W-2 or certified tax returns, is available, it must be provided, if IRS documentation is not available, an explanation for its absence must be provided, along with comparable, verifiable documentation


Proof of membership—(a) Evidence that the religious worker is a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of Form I-360; (b)  Evidence to establish that the religious worker is qualified to perform the duties of the offered position.

If the religious worker will be working as a minister, provide a copy of the religious worker’s certificate of ordination or similar documents and documents reflecting acceptance of the religious worker’s qualification as a minister in the religious denomination, as well as evidence that the religious worker has completed any course of prescribed theological education at an accredited theological institution normally required or recognized by that religious denomination.  Include transcripts, curriculum, and documentation that establishes that the theological institution is accredited by the denomination.

If the denominations do not require a prescribed theological education, provide the religious denomination’s requirements for ordination to minister, a list of duties performed by virtue of ordination, the denomination’s levels of ordination, if any, and evidence of the religious worker’s completion of the denomination’s requirements for ordination.

Proof of previous religious work (either abroad or in lawful immigration status in the United States)—If the requisite previous employment was in the U.S. and the religious worker received salaried compensation, provide documentation that he or she received a salary, such as an IRS Form W-2 or certified copies of filed income tax returns reflecting such work and compensation for the prior employment.

The religious worker received non-salaried compensation –If IRS documentation is available, provide IRS documentation of the non-salaried compensation. If IRS documentation is not available, provide an explanation for the absence of IRS documentation along with comparable, verifiable documentation.If the religious worker received no salary but provided for his or her own support and that of any dependents, provide verifiable documents to show how support was maintained, such as audited financial statements, financial institution records, brokerage account statements, trust documents signed by an attorney, or other verifiable evidence acceptable to USCIS.

In order to alleviate the amount of fraud in religious workers cases, the USCIS undertakes all means to verify evidence as appropriate. This includes on-site inspection of the petitioning organization.

Pursuant to a recent court decision, USCIS must also allow the I-360 and I-485 Adjustment of Status application to be filed concurrently. Religious worker immigrants are likewise under the EB-4 preference category in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin. There is also a provision in the law that sets the deadline of filing and approval for non-minister special immigrant religious petitions and I-496 applications, which has been historically extended each time it is reached.

You Need a Lawyer for an EB-3 Visa Application

If you are a religious organization or religious denomination looking to apply for a Visa for your religious workers and other religious workers, you need the expert assistance of an Immigrant Attorney to help you through the process.

There are a lot of requirements that you have to comply with in order to successfully file your application– from bureaucratic forms, IRS certificates, and other documentations.

Attempting to cut on costs by doing all these on your own may result in an inefficient, and even more expensive process altogether. With a lawyer to help you through your EB-3 Visa application though, you get a more efficient, expedited application process.

At The Gambacorta Law Office, we know everything about EB-3 Visa Application. From the forms that you need to accomplish to the required documentation, we are here to help. We work passionately towards successfully filing your application.

Get in touch with us to know more about how we can help you with your EB-3 Visa Application today!