What is EB-4 Visa? Green Card Eligibility for Special Immigrant Classification, Criteria and Application Process

What is EB-4 Visa? Green Card Eligibility for Special Immigrant Classification, Criteria and Application Process

Employment-Based Fourth Preference Visa: Religious Workers and SIJ’s

Each year, a limited number of visas become available for foreign workers to enter the U.S. as temporary or permanent legal residents. There are five levels of employment-based visas, covering a variety of different individuals in different situations. The employment-based fourth preference (EB-4) is like the others in the sense that it covers specific occupations and disciplines, but it can apply to juveniles without job experience or offers.

EB-4 Eligibility

Factors such as age, education, and work experience determine which category of visa for which an individual can qualify. Special immigrants that are eligible for an EB-4 include:

  • Religious workers
  • Special immigrant juveniles (SIJs)
  • Certain types of broadcasters
  • Members of the U.S. armed forces
  • Certain physicians practicing medicine in a U.S. state as of January 9, 1978
  • Panama Canal company
  • Certain abroad government employees and their families
  • Certain officers or employees who have retired from a G-4 international organization or NATO-6 civilian employees
  • Afghan or Iraqi translators
  • Afghans or Iraqis who were employed by the U.S. government

When petitioning for an immigrant visa it is important for an individual to know what category they fit under. This research can be made significantly easier with legal assistance.

Religious Workers

One of the vaguer categories that fits under the EB-4 green card is religious workers. Ministers and non-ministers in occupations and vocations related to religion are considered religious workers. These individuals can adjust their resident status or immigrate for the purpose of working in a full-time compensated religious position.

Religious Workers Eligibility

To qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, an individual must:

  • Have followed a religious denomination that has an organized non-profit group in the U.S. for at least two years prior to filing a petition with the USCIS
  • Seek entrance to the U.S. to work full-time as a minister or other religious occupation of said religious denomination
  • Come to the U.S. to work for a non-profit organization or an organization affiliated with said religious denomination
  • Have worked in one of said religious positions after the age of 14 for at least two continuous years; this will not be affected by a break in the work if the individual was still employed, the break was not longer than two years, and the break was for training or sabbatical.

Proof must be provided for each requirement when filing Form I-360 with the USCIS.

Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status

One subgroup covered by the EB-4 visa does not apply to immigrant workers and is not based on potential employment. These exempt individuals are those who qualify as special immigrant juveniles (SIJs). SIJs are juveniles in the U.S. who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by a parent and require the protection of a juvenile court.

SIJ Eligibility

To receive SIJ classification, an immigrant child must meet the following statutory requirements at the time an SIJ petition is filed and when the USCIS makes a decision:

  • The juvenile must be under 21 years of age when the SIJ petition is filed
  • The juvenile must be living in the U.S. at the time the petition is filed and when the USCIS makes a final determination. One is not able to petition from outside the country to enter on SIJ classification
  • The juvenile must not be married at the time of the filing and USCIS decision—this applies to those who never married and those who were previously married, but are not anymore due to divorce, death, or annulment.
  • The juvenile must have a juvenile court order that was issued by a U.S. state court stating the following:
    • The juvenile is dependent on the court system or a court-appointed entity
    • The juvenile cannot be reunited with one or both parents due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a similar situation as deemed by state law
    • It is not in the juvenile’s best interests to return to his/her last habitual residence or country of nationality
  • The juvenile must be eligible for USCIS consent. USCIS consent requires that the juvenile court order be sought to escape abuse, neglect, or abandonment; not for the primary reason of obtaining an immigration benefit
  • The juvenile must have a written form from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement if and only if the juvenile is in HHS custody and the juvenile court order changes placement or custody status 

SIJ Application

Like other subgroups that fall under the EB-4 visa category, SIJ classification requires an I-360 petition. Since there is no employer because there is no potential employment, the individual can self-petition or be helped by the juvenile courts. Along with the I-360, the following supporting documents must be provided to the USCIS:

  • Evidence of the juvenile’s age on a birth certificate, official identification, or passport
  • The juvenile court order which determined the necessity for SIJ classification
  • If in custody of the HHS, written consent must be obtained from them before any custody changes or placements are ordered for the juvenile
  • If using an attorney, Form G-28 must also be filed to signal the presence of representation

Once an individual receives SIJ classification after their I-360 petition was approved, they may apply for a green card by filing a Form I-485.

When immigrant visas are available, the I-360 and I-485 can be filed concurrently. However, if immigrant visas are not available, an individual must wait before filing their Form I-485. During this time, they can still file for a Form I-360 to earn SIJ classification. The USCIS usually makes SIJ petition decisions within 180 days.

Contact an Immigration Attorney Today

This process can be difficult for individuals who are not familiar with the U.S. immigration system, and it becomes increasingly more confusing and stressful when the petitioner is a juvenile who has been separated from their parents. Having an experienced immigration attorney on your side can make all the difference when trying to earn legal, permanent residency. The legal team at Scott D. Pollock and Associates, P.C. understand the steps that need to be taken and are more than willing to assist you in every way possible.

Contact a member of our team today at 312.444.1940.

We're looking forward to hearing from you!