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Special immigrant religious workers and EB-4 visas

Many people who are considering immigrating to Pennsylvania or other areas of the United States are religious workers who want to enter the country to perform their religious groups' missions. Special considerations exist in immigration laws that often allow these religious workers to come to the U.S. to perform their duties.

Special immigrant religious workers fall under a category of people who can apply for an employment-based fourth-preference visa, also called an EB-4 visa. To qualify for the position of a special immigrant religious worker, the person must be a member of two years or more of a religion that has a non-profit religious organization status in the U.S. Their eligibility is contingent upon their prospective employment in the country. Ministers, professionals and nonprofessionals must have worked within religious vocations or occupations in full-time, compensated positions for at least two years before they initiated the process of immigrating to the U.S. They must be coming to the U.S. to work for a non-profit religious organization or for an organization that is affiliated with their religious organization.

Though special immigrant religious workers must have worked for at least two years for a religious organization after they turned 14 years old, their occupation for the organization does not need to be the same work they plan to perform upon moving to the U.S. Breaks in the person's work history for the organization will not necessarily affect their eligibility for an EB-4 visa if they were still employed as a religious worker, were seeking further religious education or training or were taking a sabbatical. The break must not have exceeded two years.

Immigration applications tend to be complicated, and mistakes could cause major setbacks. Experienced immigration attorneys are often able to walk clients through the process of applying for an employment-based visa and may also be able to represent them in interviews with CIS personnel.

Source: U.S.C.I.S., "Special Immigrant Religious Workers," Accessed Jan. 21, 2015

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