The employment-based, fourth-preference category, or EB-4, allows religious workers to earn permanent resident status for the purpose of conducting full-time, compensated religious work. R-1 visa holders who have worked in the U.S. as religious workers may wish to earn permanent residency in the U.S., and the EB-4 immigrant application is the rational pathway to this end.
The primary difference between the categories is that an R-1 visa is a temporary nonimmigrant working visa, granting foreign nationals only temporary employment authorization in the U.S. at a religious nonprofit organization. R-1 status is limited to an initial 30-month authorization, with a potential 30-month extension, after which the alien must depart the U.S. for at least one year in order to reapply for R-1 status. In contrast, an EB-4 visa for religious workers allows for permanent residency. (For an in-depth discussion on EB-4 requirements for religious workers, click here.)
If an alien religious worker is already in the U.S. on an R-1 visa, meets EB-4 requirements, including a minimum of two years’ work experience in a religious setting, and has an offer of employment from a religious nonprofit, then applying for an EB-4 is seamless. The process usually begins with the U.S. employer filing Form I-360, and thereafter proceeds as it would in applying for an EB-4 visa as a religious worker. (For a look at the application process, click here.) Alternatively, eligible prospective EB-4 beneficiaries may petition on behalf of themselves.
For more information on the EB-4 visa, refer to the following links: