What is an EB4 Visa?
The EB4 visa is an employment-based green card for certain categories of foreign nationals regarded as “special immigrants”.”
This visa allows successful applicants to travel, live, work, and study in the United States. They can also apply for citizenship by naturalization after 5 years of living in the U.S. as a green card holder.
Some visa candidates may also sponsor their dependent family members, including spouses and children, to join them in America.
Who is eligible for the EB4 visa?
The EB4 visa is meant for immigrants who are members of a non-profit religious denomination in the United States. The application is open to several categories of people, including:
- Religious workers that have worked for least 2 years in a recognized non-profit religious organization in the United States.
- Unmarried juveniles currently living in the United States depend on the juvenile court due to neglect, abandonment, or above. These juveniles must be under the age of 21
- Foreign journalists who are coming to work for the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
- Retired G-4 international officers or NATO-6 civilian employees and their families
- Foreign-based US federal employees and their families
- Employees of the Panama Canal Company or the Panama Canal Zone
- Certain licensed physicians and medics in the United States as of January 9th, 1978
- Iraqi or Afghan translators or interpreters for the U.S. military
- Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government for at least one year and who are under serious threats
- Afghans who worked for the U.S. or the ISAF (ISAF)
There are some additional requirements for some of these professions. You can also apply for the R-1, Religious Workers Visa if you’re a foreign religious worker. The visa allows you to stay in the U.S. temporarily.
If you don’t meet the requirements for the EB4 visa, there are other similar green card categories you can apply for. These include:
- EB1 green card for persons with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors, and certain multinationals managers or executives.
- EB2 green card for applicants with advanced degrees and exceptional ability.
- EB3 green card for skilled workers, professionals, unskilled workers.
- EB5 green card for immigrant investors.
What is the application process for the EB4 Visa?
The EB4 visa is usually sponsored by a US-based employer. However, in some cases, the employee may be allowed to sponsor themselves.
Your employer in the U.S. must first petition on your behalf before you can apply for an EB4 visa. The initial step is to fill out Form I-360.
If you don’t have a U.S. employer as a sponsor, you can self-petition and file Form I-360 but only in select cases. Examples include cases of parents, children, and spouses of abusive American citizens.
Self-Petitioning EB4 Visa
A genuine and permanent job offer from a U.S. employer is also required. This work must be full-time and not seasonal. The U.S. employer must also show financial stability to prove that they can hire you and pay your wages.
If you are a religious worker, you must present supporting documents of your religious profession, proof of your employer’s non-profit status, and a letter from a superior in the religious organization. Religious employees do not need a PERM Labor Certification, unlike other employment visas.
After processing Form I-360, you have to wait for the verdict. Your petition can either be approved or refused. If it’s refused, you’ll get a letter with reasons why it was refused. The letter may also include what you can do to overturn the verdict. If the petition is approved, you’ll be notified of the next steps to take.
Usually, you’ll have to attend a green card interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your country of residence. Biometrics information is also required in some cases. It is recommended to consult an immigration lawyer to determine your eligibility for self-petitioning and what proof is required to support your case. This will help you avoid pitfalls and improve your chances of visa application approval.
The employer petition stage is very important. A US employer cannot sponsor your immigrant without approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services permission (USCIS). This is why they must file Form I-360 and wait for a verdict.
They also have to show proof that they’re financially capable of hiring you. Your employers can present bank statements, audit records, and tax returns. The immigration services may require some specific financial documents in certain situations.
If you’re a broadcaster, your petition must be sponsored by the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) or a grantee of the USAGM. The USCIS will review and notify the visa applicant after the employer submits the petition. If the petition is approved, the National Visa Center (NVC) will take up the case.
The Visa Center will assign a case number and an invoice I.D. number. You’ll receive an informational packet with instructions on what to do.
What To Do Next
The packet from the NVC will include your case login details on the CEAC website. You’ll receive instructions to fill the Form DS-261 and DS-260. Also included is the information regarding your green card interview and taking a medical exam. Most importantly, you’ll have to pay your application fees.
What are the EB4 Visa Application Fees?
Paying your application fees is the first thing to do after getting your informational packet. Your immigrant status on the CEAC website must show “PAID” before you can do anything else.
The exact fees will depend on whether you’re sponsoring yourself or if you’re sponsored by a U.S. employer. Hence, these fees are not fixed. You can pay the fees online.
Other fees include:
- USCIS Form I-360 petition filing fee (if self-petitioning): $435
- Biometrics fee (if required): $85
- USCIS Immigrant fee: $220
You also have to pay for your medication examination and a translator for your interview if you need one. The costs of these may vary. Some additional costs may also apply, which may depend on the EB4 Visa category you’re applying for.
Form DS-260 and DS-261
Form DS-260 is the standard visa application form. It’s an online form you have to fill and submit from the CEAC website after logging in.
Form DS-261 is the next online form to fill. It’s a very simple form. You just have to provide information on the best way that the state department can contact you during your application process.
After submitting both forms, you’ll get a confirmation page with a unique number. You must print this confirmation page and take it with you to your interview.
What documents will you need?
Several supporting documents are required to support your visa application. It depends on the visa category you’re applying for. You should talk to an immigration lawyer to know the specific documents that apply to your case. This will significantly improve your chances of approval, as they will guide you on the best way to file your petition and approach your visa interview.
The supporting documents you provide must be issued by a government official issuing body in your home country. If they’re non-English documents, you must include their certified English translations.
Generally, these are some of the supporting documents you’ll need to provide:
- An international passport for at least 6 months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S.
- A job offer from a U.S. employer if applicable
- The Approved Form I-360
- Two 2×2 passport photos according to U.S. Visa standards
- Medical Exam and Vaccination Proof forms
- Criminal records
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate if you’re applying with family members
You have to scan and upload these documents as the application is online. There are provisions to upload them in the CEAC portal. You shouldn’t send the documents by mail to the NVC unless instructed. The scanned documents must be in JPG or PDF formats. PDFs are necessary for multi-page documents. Also, they must not be higher than 2 M.B. in size.
The uploaded documents must be in a coloured format and well oriented. After submitting your supporting documents, they’ll be reviewed by the NVC. Your submission may be rejected if your documents are incomplete or there’s a need for any correction.
Medical Examination and Required Vaccinations
You must pass a medical examination to confirm that you’re fit to enter and live in the United States. In addition, you must take certain vaccinations. You’ll know what vaccines to take from the NVC informational packet as it differs from country to country.
A US embassy-approved doctor in your home country must sign all your medical forms. You can schedule the medical exam at any time that suits you within the given timeframe. However, note that the earlier, the better. Your medical forms will be rejected if it’s signed by a non-approved doctor.
The doctor will send the signed forms to the embassy directly. They may also give you the forms to submit but in a sealed envelope. You’re not to open this envelope yourself.
EB4 Visa Interview
This is the last stage of your EB4 visa application. Your interview will be held in the U.S. Embassy in your home country. For those in the United States, you should attend your interview at a USCIS office. During the interview, the immigration officer will ask questions about your past and why you want to immigrate to the U.S.
The interviewer will analyse your answers based on the information and supporting documents you’ve already provided. Your visa will be granted if the interviewer approves your answers. If approved, your passport will be stamped with the EB4 visa, allowing you to travel to the U.S. You will also receive a sealed packet to take with you and present to immigration authorities at a U.S. port of entry.
This packet typically contains information allowing you to enter the country. You should not open it, and it should be close so you can present it immediately upon arrival.
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The processing period for an EB4 depends on when a slot opens up in the visa bulletin. It also depends on factors like the USCIS backlog and your home country. For example, applicants from China or India may wait substantially longer.
There is also an annual cap on the number of EB4 visas issued in a year. Visas are given in chronological order, so you may have to wait years. It depends on when you applied and how many other people are waiting for the same visa.
The EB4 is an immigrant visa. It’s a permanent resident visa and doesn’t expire. As a successful EB4 visa applicant, you will receive a green card which automatically qualifies you as a lawful permanent resident in the US. With your green card, you can live, work, travel out, and reenter the U.S. unrestricted.
Just like other immigrant visas, the EB4 visa offers a pathway to U.S. citizenship. With permanent resident status via an employment-based visa, you may apply for U.S. citizenship by naturalization after 5 years of obtaining your green card.