USA and the UK
- What is the EB-4 Visa?
- Who is eligible for the EB-4 visa?
- What is the application process for the EB-4 Visa?
- The Petition Stage
- What is the Form DS-261 (Choice of Address and Agent)?
- Medical Examination and Required Vaccinations
- What documents are required for the EB-4 Visa?
- Immigrant Visa Interview
- What are the fees for an EB-4 Visa?
- How long does it take to get an EB-4 Visa?
- How can IAS help me?
What is the EB-4 Visa?
The EB-4 visa is an employment-based immigrant visa (aka, green card) intended for special immigrants. Under this visa, recipients can enjoy all the benefits and privileges of permanent resident status including the freedom to travel, live, work and study in the United States. In addition, after 5 years of living in the U.S. as a green card holder, they will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
In addition, some visa applicants are eligible to sponsor their dependent family members (spouse and children) to come to the United States with them.
Who is eligible for the EB-4 visa?
The EB-4 visa is generally intended for immigrants who are members of a non-profit religious denomination in the U.S. but has expanded to cover a wide range of applicants. The following individuals are eligible for an EB-4:
- Religious workers (workers who have worked at least 2 years in a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S.)
- Special immigrant juveniles (unmarried juveniles under the age of 21 who are currently living in the U.S. and are dependents on the juvenile court due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect)
- Certain broadcasters (reporter, writer, translator, editor, producer, announcer, news broadcast host, news analysis, editorial, and other broadcasting features, or a news analysis specialist who are coming to the U.S. to work for United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) )
- Retired officers or employees of a G-4 international organization or NATO-6 civilian employees and their family members
- Certain employees of the U.S. government who are abroad and their family members
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces
- Panama Canal Company or Panama Canal Zone employees
- Certain physicians licensed and practicing medicine in a U.S. state as of January 9th, 1978
- Afghan or Iraqi translators or interpreters who worked with the U.S. Armed Forces
- Iraqis who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government (Iraqi nationals who worked by or on behalf of the U.S. government or U.S. Armed Forces for at least one year and who have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat due to their work)
- Afghans who were employed by the U.S. government or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
Some of these professions come with additional requirements. If you believe that you are eligible for a special immigrant visa, get in touch with an experienced immigration attorney. We can assess both your eligibility and the eligibility of your family for an EB-4 visa. Religious workers who wish to visit and live in the U.S. temporarily (without permanent resident status) can also apply for an R-1 Visa (Religious Workers).
What is the application process for the EB-4 Visa?
In order to apply for an EB-4 visa, the U.S.-based employer must first petition for the visa applicant. To do this, they must first file a Form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant) and provide supporting evidence. Those who do not have a U.S. sponsor can in some situations self-petition and file for Form I-360 themselves, for example, spouses, parents, and children of abusive U.S. citizens can self-petition. Consult with an expert immigration lawyer to see if you are eligible to self-petition and what supporting evidence will be needed to strengthen your application.
In addition, visa applicants must have a valid and permanent job offer from a U.S. employer. This job position must be within their field of expertise, not seasonal or part-time. Furthermore, the U.S. employer sponsoring the visa applicant must be able to prove that they are financially stable enough to hire a foreign worker.
If you are applying as a religious worker, you must provide evidence of the religious vocation, proof that the organization you work for is non-profit and a letter from a superior within their religious occupation. Unlike other employment-based visas, a PERM form is not required for special immigrant religious workers.
After Form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant) is processed, the visa applicant will receive a decision on whether or not the petition is approved. If the petition is refused, the visa applicant will receive a letter detailing why the petition was rejected. If the petition is approved, the visa applicant will receive instructions on what to do next. This may include instructions to collect biometric data (if applicable) and notice to appear for a green card interview at a local U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
The Petition Stage
Any U.S. employer wishing to sponsor a foreign worker under a Special Immigrants Visa must first get approval to do so from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In order to receive approval, the U.S.-based employer must first file Form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant). In addition to completing this form, the employer must submit supporting documents that prove that the business is financially stable enough to hire and pay the worker. In order to prove the employer’s financial viability, the employer must submit tax returns, audit documents, or any other financial statements that accurately depict the business’s finances.
Those who are self-petitioning should contact USCIS and consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to determine if they meet the criteria to self-petition.
Broadcasters who would like to apply for an EB-4 visa must have their petition submitted by the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) or a grantee of the USAGM for a position involved in media work. Positions in a technical or support role do not qualify for eligibility.
After the petition is submitted by the employer, USCIS will process it and notify the visa applicant of the decision. If approved, the application will then transfer to the National Visa Center (NVC) who will assign a case number and invoice ID number and send an informational packet to the visa applicant with instructions on what to do next.
What is the Form DS-261 (Choice of Address and Agent)?
The NVC packet sent to the visa applicant contains a series of instructions on how to further the visa application including completing the online DS-260 and DS-261 Forms, information about completing a medical exam and attending a green card interview at the local U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
In addition to completing Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application), EB4 visa applicants will also need to file for Form DS-261. This is a relatively simple form that can be filled out online and tells the State Department how to best communicate with you during your application process. This form can be accessed by entering your case number and has no fee to file. Instructions on how to submit it will be sent to you in the National Visa Center (NVC)’s welcome letter which will be sent to you once your petition is approved. Once you have finished submitting your form online, you will be shown a confirmation page and number.
Medical Examination and Required Vaccinations
In order to be approved for a U.S. green card, all applicants must first complete a medical evaluation proving that they are healthy enough to enter and live in the United States without posing a risk to the general public. In addition to this medical examination, the applicant must also receive the required vaccinations.
Instructions for what specific vaccinations are needed along with the required medical examination form will be sent to the applicant in the first NVC packet. All medical forms must be signed by a licensed doctor. These will be included in the portfolio of evidence that will be submitted later.
What documents are required for the EB-4 Visa?
Different documents will be needed depending on what type of EB4 category you are applying for. For this reason, it is important to consult with your lawyer regarding the specifics of what documents you should submit. Overall, you will need to submit the following documents:
- Your passport which must be valid for more than 6 months after your intended departure to the U.S
- An employment offer from the U.S. sponsor (if applicable)
- Your approved Form I-360
- Two 2×2 photographs that meet U.S. Visa standards
- Completed Medical Examination and Proof of Vaccination Forms
- Court or criminal records
- Birth and marriage certificates (If applying with your family members)
Due to the fact that there are so many different types of special immigrant categories, it is important to carefully read the instructions in the NVC packet or consult with an immigration lawyer on what specific forms to submit.
Immigrant Visa Interview
The final step of any immigrant visa application is the green card interview. This interview will take place at a local U.S. Embassy or Consulate if you are abroad or at a local USCIC office if you are in the United States.
In the interview, the immigration officer will ask the applicant questions based on the information provided in their visa application as well as other questions about their background and why they are immigrating to the United States.
If the immigration official is satisfied with the interview, your visa application will be approved. Your passport will then be stamped with the EB-4 visa and you will then be allowed to travel to the United States. In addition, you will be given a sealed packet which you must take with you and present to immigration control at a U.S. port-of-entry who will open it and use it to determine if you are allowed entry.
It is very important that you do not open this packet and also that you keep it on hand with you while you travel (Don’t pack it away in checked baggage) so that you can properly submit it to immigration.
What are the fees for an EB-4 Visa?
The majority of the cost of applying for an EB-4 visa will depend on whether or not the employer petitions for the I-360 form or if the visa applicant self-petitions. Overall, the fees for the visa include the following:
- USCIS Form I-360 petition filing fee (if self-petitioning): $435
- Biometrics fee (if applicable): $85
- USCIS Immigrant fee: $220
- Medical examination fees: costs may vary
- Certified Translations (if applicable): costs may vary
- Travel expenses: costs may vary
Again, there might be additional costs which will depend on what type of EB4 Visa you are applying for.
How long does it take to get an EB-4 Visa?
The processing time to get an EB-4 varies depending on how long it takes for you to receive your priority date, in other words, for a spot to open up in the visa bulletin. The wait time for this will depend on a number of factors such as if there is a USCIS backlog of visa applications and what country an applicant is applying from. For instance, if you are applying from China or India, the wait time is much longer.
In addition, there is an annual limit on the number of EB-4 visas issued each year. Since the visas are issued in chronological order, you may have to wait years for your visa to be processed. Of course, this will all depend on when you applied and the number of others who are also waiting for the same visa. As always, it is best to consult with an immigration lawyer experienced with this type of visa who can give you a better idea of how long it will take to process your visa.
How can IAS help me?
The EB-4 is open to a wide range of people and therefore can be a difficult and complicated visa to apply for. Therefore, it is strongly advised to seek expert legal advice from an immigration lawyer.
Here at IAS, we can review your case and assess if you meet the requirements not only for this visa but other green card visas such as the following:
- Employment-based visas, such as the EB1 Visa (Extraordinary Ability Green Card),
- The EB2 Visa (for those with an advanced degree)
- The EB3 visa (Skilled Worker’s Green Card)
- The EB5 Visa (Investor Green Card)
- Family-Based Green cards for your spouse, children, parents or siblings.
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You can bring your spouse and unmarried children who are under the age of 21 with you to the states if you are approved for certain types of EB-4 visas. Consult with an immigration lawyer for more information on the eligibility of your family members.
If you are approved for an EB-4 (Special Immigrant Visa) you can re-settle in the United States under permanent resident status. After 5 years of continuously living in the U.S., you can apply for U.S. naturalization.
Once you are approved for an EB-4 visa and immigrate to the United States, you may be able to sponsor more of your family to join you in the U.S. This, of course, will depend on if you are a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident and what category of Family-Based Green Cards your relative falls under (Ex. preference relative or immediate relative). Consult with an immigration attorney to find out which visas your family members qualify for.