EB4 Visa: The Complete Guide

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • The EB4 visa is a special visa category for specific groups of immigrants.
  • It includes ordained ministers, special immigrant juveniles, broadcasters, employees of international organizations, U.S. government employees working abroad, members of the armed forces, certain physicians, employees of the Panama Canal Zone, and translators for Afghan and Iraqi languages.
  • To apply, an employer must petition the USCIS on behalf of the employee, followed by an application to the U.S. consulate or embassy.
  • The process involves filling out forms, undergoing medical exams, collecting supporting documents, and attending a visa interview. Processing times can vary from a few months to several years.

The EB4, also known as employment-based immigration, is one category of employment visas processed by the United States government every year to allow foreign nationals to enter the United States. To be eligible for this visa, you need to have a prospective employer willing to hire you. Each year, less than 10,000 of these visas are permitted to be processed.

What Is an EB4 Visa?

The EB4 is a special visa designed for a particular category of immigrants. The below list is the type of job you need to hold to qualify for an EB4 visa:

  • Ordained minister
  • Special immigrant juveniles (this is for the benefit of minors subjected to hardships in their host country)
  • Broadcasters
  • Employees of the G4 international organization or NATO-6
  • Employees hired by the U.S. government but working abroad (outside of the United States)
  • Members of the armed forces
  • Physicians from a certain field
  • Employees of the Panama canal zone
  • Translators for Afghan and Iraqi languages
  • Nationals from Afghanistan and Iraq who have contributed to the service of the United States armed forces in their respective countries

With an EB4 visa, one can work and live permanently in the United States if an employer is willing to hire them upon arrival.

How To Apply for an EB4 Visa

Before applying for an EB4 visa, you should know if you satisfy the requirements to do so. Generally, there are two requirements for people belonging to the above list of categories:

  • The applicant needs to have a completely valid permanent job offer from a U.S. employer to work in the United States. It cannot be a seasonal or part-time offer.
  • The job offered needs to be in the applicant’s area of expertise only.

Moving forward, the application process is divided into two parts.

  • The prospective employer needs to petition the U.S. citizenship and immigration services (USCIS) on behalf of the employee.
  • Following approval, the employee needs to apply to the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country.

Filing the Petition

Your U.S. employer needs to get permission from the USCIS before they can hire you. This is done by filling out Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. Once the permission is granted, you can start the visa process. There are cases where you, the employee, can directly approach the USCIS, but such instances are rare, and you should first check out their website for more information on if you can do so or not.

If you are a broadcaster, your application will be submitted by the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors or one of their grantees only. You need to be a broadcaster who is part of the media and not on the technical or support teams.

Once the employer submits the petition, it will be processed, and the decision will be made by the USCIS. If the USCIS grants permission, your case will be transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC), which will assign a case number and invoice ID to your application and send you the details and instructions on next steps to your address in your home country.

Filing Form DS-261

Once the USCIS gives permission for the employer to make the hire, you (the applicant) will have to fill out a form called DS-261. This is an online application and is the first step to your visa application under EB4. You can access this form online by typing in your case number on the consulate website. Once you fill out all the necessary details and click submit, you will immediately be directed to the confirmation page and be given a case number.

Completing the Medical Exam

The NVC package you receive will also contain a list of medical examinations you need to clear and a list of vaccines you need to have before entering the United States. Ensure you take all vaccines and pass all medical examinations because those documents will be verified. All medical exams must be completed by a licensed doctor, and the documents regarding your vaccines must also be signed by the doctor before you can add them to your supporting documents file.

Collecting Your Support Documents

The following is a list of the support documents you will be required to submit for verification by the U.S. consulate in your home country to process your application.

  • Your passport, valid for more than six months after your intended departure to the U.S.
  • Your employment offer letter
  • The approved petition
  • Your DS-261 confirmation page
  • Your signed medical and vaccine documents
  • Two photographs that meet the U.S. visa application photo requirements
  • Academic achievements
  • CV/Resume
  • Any document of any criminal record you may have
  • Also, the NVC might need additional documents, so please thoroughly go over the package they send you

Attending Your Visa Interview

The NVC will review your documents and let you know if any additional documents are required. If no more documents are needed, a visa interview will be scheduled at the consulate you are applying from.

Receiving the NVC Package

Once the interview is done, the official conducting the interview will decide if you will be given the EB4 visa or not. If yes, they will again give you another sealed document from the NVC. You are not allowed to open it. After you arrive at an airport in the United States, the immigration officer will open the document and decide if you should be allowed to go beyond that point or not.

EB4 Visa Fees

The entire application process requires you to pay various fees to various people at different stages. The exact fees will vary from country to country and change from time to time. But generally, you will pay the following fees:

  • USCIS form I-360 petition filing fees
  • DS-216 form processing fees
  • Medical examination fees
  • Obtaining supporting documents fees
  • If applicable, translational fees to convert your language to English

EB4 Visa Processing Time

U.S. immigration visas are capped at 140,000 per year, and the EB4 category is just one of five. Similar to green cards, once the limit has been reached, all remaining visas are processed the following year. Therefore, only 9,940 EB4 visas are processed every year in chronological order. That’s only about 9.1% of the 140,000 available. Depending on when you applied, your visa can be processed within a few months or as long as four years.

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To apply for an EB4 visa, you need to have a job offer within the United States, given by a U.S. employer. The application process begins with your employer filing a petition and requires you to qualify under a certain category. Once the petition by your employer is approved, you will receive a package from the National Visa Center detailing the instructions and the list of documents you would need to continue the process.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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