The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program grants U.S. permanent residency (PR) status to foreign nationals who satisfy certain criteria. This program is open to Iraqi nationals that have been employed within Iraq by the U.S. authorities for at least one year, with the employment starting on or after March 20, 2003. The program is also available to Afghan and Iraqi interpreters and translators that have worked directly with the U.S. Chief of Mission (COM) or the armed forces. Afghan residents covered by the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 also qualify for the SIV program.
If you’re eligible for SIV, you’re required to self-petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to get your Green Card.
SIV eligibility criteria
The eligibility criteria for SIV vary within the special immigrant’s category. If you’re an Iraqi national who has worked for the U.S. government, you must fulfill the following requirements to be eligible for a Green Card:
- You should have the relevant documents that state your Iraqi nationality.
- You should have been working in Iraq on behalf of the U.S. authorities for at least twelve months. Your employment period should have begun on or after March 20, 2003.
- You should have a letter of recommendation from your supervisor stating that your period of service has been valuable and faithful to the U.S. government. The letter needs to be approved by the COM.
- You must have faced or currently be facing a serious threat that stems from your service to the U.S. government. The nature of this threat has to be determined by means of a thorough risk assessment carried out by the COM or his/her designee.
- You should clear appropriate screening and background checks conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
- You must be eligible for a US immigrant visa as per section 212(a) (4) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.
If you’re an Afghanistan or Iraq national who has been employed as an interpreter or translator for the U.S. government, your eligibility for SIV depends on the fulfillment of these criteria:
- You should have been directly employed by the U.S. army or have worked directly with the COM as an interpreter or translator.
- You should be able to provide a favorable letter of recommendation from a Flag Officer or General in the army unit that you worked with. If you worked at the embassy, you’d be required to produce a letter of recommendation from that embassy’s COM.
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Afghan nationals who were either directly employed by the U.S. authorities, or worked on behalf of the U.S. authorities for at least twelve months are also eligible for SIV provided they can satisfy these requirements:
- Your employment period with the U.S. government should have started on or after March 20, 2003.
- You should be able to produce a written recommendation in favor of your employment from the embassy or the U.S. army unit that you worked with. The letter of recommendation needs to be from the COM, an army General, or Flag Officer of your embassy/unit.
- Your employment with the U.S. government should either have posed a serious threat to you in the past or be the cause of an ongoing threat to your safety.
Your spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age can also be granted SIV. Based on individual visa approval procedures, they may be allowed to travel with you or be allowed to follow you after you have moved to the U.S.
Steps for getting your Green Card
Your Green Card eligibility is met once you’ve submitted the documents required to support your special immigrant status. Here are the steps you’re required to take for getting a Green card:
1. File a petition with the USCIS
As part of your petition, you’re required to submit the following documents to the Nebraska Service Center of the USCIS:
- A copy of your birth certificate or passport as proof of nationality. If this document is not in English, you’re also required to submit a certified English copy.
- An accurately completed I-360 form.
- Proof of your employment with the U.S. Army or the COM.
- A document in support of satisfactory background check by the U.S. Army or the COM.
- Written recommendation from a Flag Officer or General from your unit or from the Chief of Command of the U.S. Embassy of Kabul or Baghdad (whichever is applicable).
2. Prepare your Visa application
Once your petition is approved, the U.S. National Visa Center (NVC) will send you an e-mail containing information about the visa processing procedure, including the list of required documents and the process of obtaining a passport. The NVC will also schedule your appointment with the embassy and set up your visa interview. You can communicate with the NVC at [email protected].
3. Appear for Visa interview
The visa interview is conducted in English, and you will be required to provide a written account of the nature of your service for the U.S. government. Members of your family who have applied for SIV will be required to appear in separate visa interviews of their own. You will also need to submit a marriage certificate if your spouse is applying for SIV, and for your children, proof of relationship.
Travel to the U.S.
You will be awarded the status of Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) upon entering the U.S. and will receive your Green Card or Permanent Resident Card through the mail. SIV recipients have three resettlement options. They can pick a city from the list of SIV placement locations, ask to be placed in the same city as a friend or family member, or have a resettlement agency choose the best location based on their biographical details.
Once this process is complete, you can now commence your new life in the U.S and apply for U.S. citizenship after a five-year period.
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