Overview of R-1 and EB-4 Visa
R-1: Nonimmigrant Religious Workers)
An R-1 is a foreign national who is coming to the United States temporarily to be employed as a minister or in another religious vocation or occupation at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week) by a non-profit religious organization in the United States.
EB-4: Immigrant Religious Workers
This visa program is intended for religious workers whose lives are dedicated to religious practices and functions, as distinguished from secular members of the religion.
Ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations may immigrate to or adjust status in the U.S. 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.
II. Beneficiary’s Eligibility
R-1: Nonimmigrant Religious Workers
To qualify, the foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately before the filing of the petition.
EB-4: Immigrant Religious Workers
To qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, the foreign national must:
1) Have been a member of a religious denomination that has a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the
United States for at least 2 years immediately \before the filing of a petition for this status with USCIS.
2) Seek to enter the United States to work in a full time, compensatedposition in one of the following occupations:
- Solely as a minister of that religious denomination;
- A religious vocation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity;
- A religious occupation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity; or
- A bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States.
3) Be coming to work for either:
- 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.
4) Have been working in one of the positions described above after the age of 14, either abroad or in the United
States, continuously for at least 2 years immediately before the filing of a petition with USCIS.
The prior religious work need not correspond precisely to the type of work to be performed.
A break in the continuity of the work during the preceding two years will not affect eligibility so long as:
- The foreign national was still employed as a religious worker;
- The break did not exceed two years; and
- The nature of the break was for further religious training or for sabbatical. However, the foreign national must
have been a member of the petitioner’s denomination throughout the two years of qualifying employment.
Petitioner Religious Organization’s Requirements
- A bona fide non-profit religious organization and has its own individual Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 501(c)(3) letter
- A bona fide non-profit religious organization that is recognized as tax-exempt under a group tax exemption.
- A bona fide organization that is affiliated with the religious denomination and was granted tax-exempt status under
section 501(c)(3), or subsequent amendment or equivalent sections of prior enactments of the Internal Revenue Code,
as something other than a religious organization.
- Verifiable evidence showing how the organization will compensate the religious worker, including specific monetary or
- Under the regulations at 8 CFR 214.2(r)(16), USCIS may conduct a pre-approval inspection in any case.
If USCIS decides to conduct a pre-approval inspection, satisfactory completion of the inspection will be
a condition for approval of any petition.
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