EB-4 Special Immigrants Visa

EB-4 Special Immigrants Visa

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Last updated: April 8, 2024.

What is EB-4 Special Immigrants Visa

The EB-4 Special Immigrant Visa is a category of employment-based immigrant visas in the United States that is designed for individuals who fall into certain special immigrant categories. These categories encompass religious workers, certain employees of U.S. foreign service posts, broadcasters, Iraqi and Afghan translators who worked with the U.S. government, certain physicians, and others.

Here are some of the specific groups that can apply for EB-4 Special Immigrant Visas:

  • Religious Workers (EB-4 Religious Workers Visa): This category is for individuals who are religious workers, such as ministers, priests, and other religious professionals. To qualify, you must have been a member of a religious denomination for at least two years and be entering the U.S. to work in a religious capacity.
  • Special Immigrant Juveniles (EB-4 SIJ Visa): This category is for foreign children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents and have been declared dependent on a juvenile court. These children can obtain lawful permanent resident status if it’s determined that it’s not in their best interest to return to their home country.
  • Broadcasters (EB-4 Broadcaster Visa): This category is for certain employees of international broadcasting organizations, such as the Voice of America. To qualify, you must have worked for at least 15 years as a principal or key staff member.
  • Iraqi and Afghan Translators (EB-4 Translators Visa): This category is for translators and interpreters who have worked directly with the U.S. armed forces or under Chief of Mission authority as a translator or interpreter for a period of at least 12 months in Iraq or Afghanistan.
  • Certain Physicians (EB-4 Physicians Visa): Foreign medical graduates who have entered the U.S. on J-1 visas and have worked in a designated health professional shortage area or medically underserved area for at least five years can qualify for this category.
  • Panama Canal Zone Employees (EB-4 Panama Canal Zone Visa): This category is for certain employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government who meet specific criteria.
  • Retired NATO-6 employees (EB-4 NATO Visa): Certain retired employees of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) who are nationals of NATO member countries can apply for this type of visa.
  • Certain Employees of U.S. Foreign Service Posts (EB-4 Foreign Service Visa): Individuals who have worked abroad for the U.S. government in a diplomatic or consular capacity can qualify for this category.

EB-4 Visa Eligibility and Application Process

Religious Workers (EB-4 Religious Workers Visa)

The EB-4 Religious Workers Visa is a type of special immigrant visa that allows certain individuals in religious occupations to immigrate to the United States for the purpose of religious work. This category is intended for religious workers who are members of a qualifying religious denomination and have a job offer from a U.S. religious organization.

Here are some key points about the EB-4 Religious Workers Visa:

Eligibility: To be eligible for the EB-4 Religious Workers Visa, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Membership: You must be a member of a religious denomination that has a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States.
  • Religious Work: You must be coming to the U.S. to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation, such as a religious teacher, missionary, or religious worker in a professional or other religious capacity.
  • Two Years of Membership: You need to have been a member of the religious denomination for at least two years immediately preceding your application for the visa.

Application Process: The process for obtaining an EB-4 Religious Workers Visa generally involves these steps:

  • Job Offer: You need to have a job offer from a U.S. religious organization that is recognized as a nonprofit organization by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • Form I-360 Petition: The U.S. religious organization that is offering you a job must file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, on your behalf.
  • Approval: Once the I-360 petition is approved, you will receive a Notice of Approval (Form I-797) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Visa Application: If you are outside the U.S., you will need to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. If you are already in the U.S., you can apply to adjust your status to that of a permanent resident.
  • Green Card: If your visa application is approved, you will be granted permanent resident status. 

It’s important to note that the number of EB-4 Religious Workers Visas is subject to an annual cap, and the availability of visas may vary from year to year. 

Special Immigrant Juveniles (EB-4 SIJ Visa)

The EB-4 SIJ (Special Immigrant Juveniles) Visa is designed for foreign children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents and who have been deemed dependent on a juvenile court in the United States. This visa category allows these children to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the U.S.

Here are the key points about the EB-4 SIJ Visa:

Eligibility: To be eligible for the EB-4 SIJ Visa, a foreign child must meet certain criteria:

  • Dependency: The child must have been declared dependent on a juvenile court located in the United States or under the custody of a state agency or department.
  • Best Interest: It must be determined by the juvenile court that it is not in the child’s best interest to be returned to their home country or the country of their last habitual residence.
  • Age: The child must be under 21 years of age when the SIJ petition is filed.
  • Eligibility under State Law: The child must be eligible under the laws of the state in which they currently reside to receive a declaration of dependency.

Application Process: The process for obtaining an EB-4 SIJ Visa generally involves these steps:

  • Juvenile Court Order: The child must obtain a court order from a juvenile court in the U.S. that declares them dependent on the court or places them under the custody of a state agency.
  • Form I-360 Petition: A parent, guardian, or certain eligible individuals can file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, on behalf of the child with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Approval: Once the I-360 petition is approved, the child can apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country, if they are outside the U.S. If the child is already in the U.S., they can apply to adjust their status to that of a permanent resident.
  • Green Card: If the visa application is approved, the child will receive permanent resident status. 

It’s important to note that the EB-4 SIJ Visa category is intended to provide protection and assistance to children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected. The child’s well-being and best interests are central to this visa category. 

Broadcasters (EB-4 Broadcaster Visa)

EB-4 Broadcaster Visa is a special immigrant visa category for certain employees of international broadcasting organizations.

Eligibility:

To be eligible for the EB-4 Special Immigrant Visa for Certain Employees of U.S. International Broadcasting Organizations, you typically need to meet the following criteria:

  • Employment: You must have worked for a U.S. international broadcasting organization for at least 15 years, and the majority of your work must have been outside the United States.
  • Key Staff or Principal Role: You must have worked in a principal or key staff position that’s critical to the mission of the broadcasting organization.
  • Work Location: Your work must have been performed for organizations like Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, or Radio Free Asia.

Application Process:

The application process generally involves these steps:

  • Employer’s Petition: The U.S. international broadcasting organization that employs you must file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, on your behalf. This petition establishes your eligibility for the special immigrant visa.
  • USCIS Review: The USCIS reviews the petition to determine your eligibility. If the petition is approved, you’ll receive a Notice of Approval (Form I-797).
  • Visa Application: If you are outside the U.S., you need to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. If you are already in the U.S., you can apply to adjust your status to a permanent resident.
  • Adjustment of Status or Visa Issuance: If your application is approved, you will be granted permanent resident status. 

Iraqi and Afghan Translators (EB-4 Translators Visa)

The EB-4 Translators Visa is a type of special immigrant visa available to Iraqi and Afghan nationals who have worked as translators or interpreters for the United States government in Iraq or Afghanistan. This visa program was created as a form of protection and recognition for individuals who provided valuable support to U.S. military and diplomatic efforts in these countries.

Eligibility:

To be eligible for the EB-4 Translators Visa, you generally need to meet these criteria:

  • Work for U.S. Government: You must have worked as a translator or interpreter for the U.S. government, including the military, in Iraq or Afghanistan for a minimum period (usually at least 12 months).
  • Satisfactory Service: Your service as a translator or interpreter must have been considered satisfactory.
  • I-360 Petition: A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident petitioner (often the employer or supervisor) must file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, on your behalf with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Security Clearance: You must obtain the required security clearances as part of the visa application process.

Application Process:

The process for obtaining an EB-4 Translators Visa generally involves these steps:

  • Form I-360 Petition: The petitioner (usually your U.S. employer or supervisor) files Form I-360 on your behalf with the USCIS. This petition establishes your eligibility for the special immigrant visa.
  • USCIS Review: The USCIS reviews the I-360 petition to determine your eligibility. If approved, you’ll receive a Notice of Approval (Form I-797).
  • Visa Application: After the I-360 petition is approved, you can apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.
  • Medical Examination and Security Clearance: As part of the visa application process, you will need to undergo a medical examination and obtain the necessary security clearances.
  • Visa Interview: You’ll attend an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate, where your eligibility and documentation will be assessed.
  • Visa Issuance: If your visa application is approved, you will be granted an immigrant visa, allowing you to enter the United States.
  • Green Card: Once you enter the U.S., you’ll be granted lawful permanent resident status (green card holder). After a certain period, you can apply for U.S. citizenship.

Certain Physicians (EB-4 Physicians Visa)

The EB-4 Physicians Visa is a special immigrant visa category designed for foreign medical graduates who have entered the United States on J-1 exchange visitor visas and have completed medical training in the U.S. This category allows certain physicians to obtain permanent resident status (a green card) in the U.S. if they have fulfilled specific service requirements in medically underserved areas or health professional shortage areas.

Eligibility:

To be eligible for the EB-4 Physicians Visa, you generally need to meet these criteria:

  • J-1 Visa Holder: You must have entered the U.S. on a J-1 exchange visitor visa for the purpose of receiving graduate medical education or training.
  • Medical License: You must possess a medical license or be eligible to receive one within the state where you plan to practice.
  • Employment in Underserved Area: You must agree to work full-time as a medical professional for at least five years in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), Medically Underserved Area (MUA), or Veterans Affairs (VA) facility.

Application Process:

The process for obtaining an EB-4 Physicians Visa generally involves these steps:

  • Job Offer: You need to secure a job offer from a health care facility in a designated underserved area or VA facility.
  • Form I-360 Petition: The healthcare facility or employer files Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, on your behalf with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • USCIS Review: The USCIS reviews the I-360 petition to determine your eligibility. If approved, you’ll receive a Notice of Approval (Form I-797).
  • Visa Application: If you are outside the U.S., you need to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are already in the U.S., you can apply to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident.
  • Visa Interview: If applying from outside the U.S., you’ll attend an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • Medical Examination and Security Clearance: You’ll undergo a medical examination and obtain the required security clearances as part of the visa application process.
  • Green Card: If your application is approved, you’ll be granted permanent resident status. 

Panama Canal Zone Employees (EB-4 Panama Canal Zone Visa)

The EB-4 Panama Canal Zone Visa is a special immigrant visa category that applies to certain employees who worked for the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government before the Panama Canal was transferred to Panama. This visa category recognizes the service of individuals who were employed in the Panama Canal Zone before its turnover to Panama in 1999.

Eligibility:

To be eligible for the EB-4 Panama Canal Zone Visa, you typically need to meet these criteria:

  • Employment History: You must have been employed by the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government before the canal was transferred to the Republic of Panama on December 31, 1999.
  • Continuous Residence: You need to have resided in the United States since the employment termination date.
  • Lawful Status: You must have maintained a lawful permanent resident status since before January 1, 2000.

Application Process:

The process for obtaining an EB-4 Panama Canal Zone Visa generally involves these steps:

  • Form I-360 Petition: You or a petitioner on your behalf (often a family member or sponsor) files Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • USCIS Review: The USCIS reviews the I-360 petition to determine your eligibility. If approved, you’ll receive a Notice of Approval (Form I-797).
  • Visa Application: If you are outside the U.S., you can apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are already in the U.S., you can apply to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident.
  • Green Card: If your application is approved, you’ll be granted permanent resident status. 

Retired NATO-6 employees (EB-4 NATO Visa)

EB-4 NATO Visa involves certain retired officers or employees of a G-4 international organization or NATO-6 civilian employees and their family members. 

Eligibility:

To be eligible for the EB-4 visa category for certain retired officers or employees of a G-4 international organization or NATO-6 civilian employees and their family members, you generally need to meet these criteria:

  • Retirement from a G-4 or NATO-6 Position: You must have retired from a G-4 international organization or NATO-6 civilian position, and your retirement must have been after 15 years of employment.
  • Continuous Residency: You must have been residing in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status for a period of at least 15 years.

Application Process:

The process for obtaining this EB-4 visa generally involves these steps:

  • Form I-360 Petition: You or a petitioner on your behalf (such as a family member or sponsor) files Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • USCIS Review: The USCIS reviews the I-360 petition to determine your eligibility. If approved, you’ll receive a Notice of Approval (Form I-797).
  • Visa Application: If you are outside the U.S., you can apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are already in the U.S., you can apply to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident.
  • Green Card: If your application is approved, you’ll be granted permanent resident status. 

Certain Employees of the U.S. Foreign Service Posts (EB-4 Foreign Service Visa)

The “Certain Employees of the U.S. Government Who Are Abroad” category refers to certain employees of the U.S. government who have been working abroad in a diplomatic or consular capacity. 

Eligibility:

To be eligible for the EB-4 visa category for certain employees of the U.S. government who are abroad and their family members, you generally need to meet these criteria:

  • Employment Abroad: You must have been employed abroad by the U.S. government in a diplomatic or consular capacity.
  • Continuous Residency: You must have been residing in the United States in a lawful nonimmigrant status for a certain period.

Application Process:

The process for obtaining this EB-4 visa generally involves these steps:

  • Form I-360 Petition: You or a petitioner on your behalf (such as a family member or sponsor) files Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • USCIS Review: The USCIS reviews the I-360 petition to determine your eligibility. If approved, you’ll receive a Notice of Approval (Form I-797).
  • Visa Application: If you are outside the U.S., you can apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are already in the U.S., you can apply to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident.
  • Green Card: If your application is approved, you’ll be granted permanent resident status. 

EB-4 Special Immigrant Visa Filing Fees

Below you can find the filing fees associated with the EB-4 Special Immigrant Visa process:

I-360 Filing Category Paper Filing Fee
General Filing $515
If you are filing as a Special Immigrant Juvenile. $0
If you are filing as an:

  • Afghan or Iraqi national who worked with the U.S. armed forces as a translator or interpreter, or the surviving spouse and children of a deceased principal;
  • Iraqi national who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. Government in Iraq, or the surviving spouse and children of a deceased principal, or
  • Afghan national who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. Government or the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, or the surviving spouse and children of a deceased principal.
$0
If you are a filing as a person who served honorably on active duty in the U.S. armed forces filing under the Immigration and Nationality Act section 101(a)(27)(K). $0
  • Form DS-260 Filing Fee: If you are applying for an immigrant visa from outside the U.S., you will typically need to pay the Form DS-260 filing fee of $325.
  • Medical Examination Fee: As part of the visa application process, you will likely need to undergo a medical examination by a designated panel physician. The cost of the medical examination can vary based on the physician’s location and the specific tests required. 
  • Adjustment of Status Fee: If you are already in the U.S. and applying to adjust your status to that of a permanent resident, you will generally need to pay an adjustment of status fee of $1,440 (or $950 for applicants under age of 14 and applying with at least one parent), which includes both the application fee and the biometrics fee.

It’s important to verify the most up-to-date fee information on the official USCIS website and U.S. Department of State website.

EB-4 Special Immigrant Visa Processing Time

Obtaining an EB-4 Special Immigrant Visa can take anywhere between 6 to 7 years. The exact processing time for the EB-4 Special Immigrant Visa can vary based on several factors, including the visa number availability and the volume of applications being processed by USCIS and U.S. Department of State.

Form I-360 processing time. Below is the average Form I-360 USCIS processing time:

  • Religious Workers – 8.5 months
  • Afghani or Iraqi translators – 6 months

Visa Availability. The EB-4 category, like other employment-based categories, is subject to numerical limitations. The availability of visas in this category depends on the annual allocation of visa numbers. If there is a backlog or limited availability of visas, it can result in longer waiting times. Currently it takes 5 years for the visa number to become available or “current”. It means that Form I-360 petitions that were filed with USCIS 5 years ago are now eligible for immigrant visa or adjustment of status applications.

EB-4 Special Immigrant Visa Checklist of Required Documents

The required documents for an EB-4 Special Immigrant Visa application can vary based on the specific category within the EB-4 program and your individual circumstances. 

General Checklist of Required Documents for EB-4 Special Immigrant Visa:

  • Form I-360: A completed and signed Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, specific to the category you are applying under.
  • Supporting Documentation: Any required supporting documentation that demonstrates your eligibility for the specific EB-4 category, such as employment records, court orders, contracts, or other evidence.
  • Passport: A valid passport for you and any eligible family members applying with you.
  • Photographs: Passport-sized photos that meet the U.S. visa photo requirements for you and each family member.
  • Civil Documents: Documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, and adoption documents to establish family relationships and other important information.
  • Medical Examination Results: The results of a medical examination conducted by an approved panel physician, if required as part of the visa application process.
  • Police Certificates: Police certificates from each country where you have lived for a certain period, as evidence of your good moral character and to ensure you are admissible to the U.S.
  • Form DS-260: A completed Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, if you are applying from outside the U.S.
  • Visa Fees: Payment receipts for any required visa fees, as determined by the U.S. embassy or consulate where you are applying.
  • Affidavit of Support: Proof of financial support from a sponsor, if required, to demonstrate that you will not become a public charge in the U.S.
  • Consular Processing: If applying from outside the U.S., any additional documents required by the U.S. embassy or consulate where you’re applying, such as the confirmation of your appointment and additional forms.
  • Adjustment of Status: If applying from within the U.S. to adjust your status to a lawful permanent resident, you’ll need to submit additional forms and evidence, including Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

Related Links:

Employment-Based Immigration

Form I-360

U.S. Visa Bulletin