SPECIAL IMMIGRANTS (4th Preference)        

Religious Worker


Hong Kong  

Panama Canal

Foreign Medical Grads  Retired Government Worker     U.S. Government Worker  Procedures

Qualifying for a green card as a special immigrant has some limitations. First, there is a quota of only 10,000 visas per year for all special immigrant categories taken together. No more than 5,000 visas of that total can be issued to non-clergy religious workers.  In this category, Congress has made green cards available to special groups that are not included in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd preference categories.  These groups include:

  • Workers for recognized religious organizations
  • Foreign medical graduates who have been in the U.S. a long time
  • Former employees of the Panama Canal Zone
  • Foreign workers who were formerly longtime employees of the U.S. Government
  • Retired officers of or employees of certain international organizations who have lived in the U.S. for a certain time
  • Foreign workers who have been employees of the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong for at least 3 years, and
  • Foreign nationals who have been declared dependent on juvenile courts in the U.S.   Back to Top


To qualify as an EB-4 special immigrant religious worker, you must be a member of a religious denomination that has a non-profit religious organization in the United States. You must have been a member of this religious denomination for at least two years before applying for admission to the United States. You must be entering the United States to work:

  • As a minister or priest of the religious denomination;
  • In a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization (a professional capacity means that a U.S.baccalaureate degree or foreign equivalent is required to do this job); or
  • In a religious vocation or occupation for the religious organization or its nonprofit affiliate. (A religious vocation means a calling or devotion to religious life. Taking vows can prove that you have a calling to religious life. A religious occupation is an activity devoted to traditional religious functions. Examples of religious occupations include (but are not limited to) cantors, missionaries, and religious instructors.)

You must have been performing this religious work for the past two years.   Back to Top


If you entered the U.S. on either an H or J visa as a graduate of a foreign medical school before January 10, 1978, you can qualify as a special immigrant if you meet certain criteria which include:

  • Permanently licensed to practice medicine and physically present in the U.S. on January 9, 1978
  • Lived continuously in U.S. since January 9, 1978
  • Obtained a waiver of the J-1 two-year home residency requirement  Back to Top


To qualify in this category, you must have resided in the Panama Canal Zone on or before April 1, 1979 and have been employed by either the Panama Canal Company or the Canal Zone government.  Or, it you were employed for 5 years and your personal safety is in danger as a direct result of the Panama Canal Treaty.  Back to Top


To qualify, you must have been employed abroad by the U.S. Government for at least 15 years.  Back to Top

RETIRED EMPLOYEES of International Organizations

This applies to people who resided in the U.S. for at least 15 years on a G-4 or N visa.   Back to Top


If you were employed for at least 3 years, you may qualify for a green card. Your spouse and minor children may accompany you if they were living with you. In this case, the U.S. Secretary must approve the recommendation and your welfare in Hong Kong must be threatened as a result of your consular employment.   Back to Top 


A foreign child can qualify for a green card if he/she is under 21, single, declared dependent on a juvenile court located in the U.S., eligible for long-term foster care.  The court must determine that it is in the child’s best interest to remain in the U.S.   Back to Top


You or your employer must submit form I- 360 at the Service Center that serves the area where you will work. You must also submit documentation that you qualify in your particular category.  For example, if you are applying as a Religious Worker, you would have to submit the following:

  • Proof that the religious organization qualifies as a non-profit organization
  • A letter from an official of the religious organization in the United States :
    • The letter should establish that you have been a member of the denomination for two years, and that you have at least two years of experience in your religious vocation or occupation.
    • If you are a minister, the letter should establish that you have been authorized to perform religious duties in general and should specify which duties you are authorized to perform.
    • If you are a religious professional, the letter should establish that you have a United States baccalaureate degree or the foreign equivalent that is required for your religious profession. You must also submit an official academic record.
  • If you are applying to work in the United States in another religious vocation or occupation, the letter should establish that you are qualified to work in that religious vocation or occupation. For instance, if you are applying to work as a nun or a monk, you would need to provide evidence that you are a nun or a monk.
  • If you are applying to work in the United States in a non-ministerial or non-professional capacity for a religious organization affiliated with a religious denomination, the letter should establish how the religious organization is affiliated with the denomination.
  • The letter should also detail how you will be carrying on the work of a minister, or how you will be paid if you are working in a professional or other religious capacity. The letter should indicate that you will not be dependent upon supplementary income (from a second job) or charity (funds solicited for your support).  Back to Top