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Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)
 
December 30, 2013

Update Regarding the Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program

  • The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program benefiting individuals who have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government has been extended through passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2014. 
  • The NDAA authorizes the issuance of 2,500 immigrant visas after January 1, 2014 to qualified principal applicants.
  • The NDAA does not include a date by which these visas must be issued, so consular officers have the authority to issue visas under this program until all 2,500 numbers have been used worldwide.  The Iraqi SIV program will end after all visas have been issued.
  • Under this legislation, the one-year period during which principal applicants must have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq begins on or after March 20, 2003, and ends on or before September 30, 2013.
  • The legislation includes a requirement that the principal applicant must apply for Chief of Mission approval no later than September 30, 2014.
  • Those applicants with cases pending do not need to re-file.  If your petition has been approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), we encourage you to provide all requested documents to the National Visa Center (NVC) immediately so that your visa interview can be scheduled promptly.
  • Derivative family members (i.e., spouses, children) of principal applicants who were issued SIVs prior to December 31, 2013 can still be issued after December 31, 2013.
  • Applicants are advised to check their email accounts and consult our website (http://iraq.usembassy.gov/) regularly for the most recent information regarding the SIV program.
  • The separate U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis remains an option, as the eligibility criteria are very similar to those of the SIV program.  For more information on USRAP, please visit http://iraq.usembassy.gov/refugeesidpaffairs.html.


Iraqi SIV Program is Extended by the United States Congress

The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program benefiting individuals who have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government has been extended through passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2014.  The NDAA authorizes the issuance of 2,500 immigrant visas after January 1, 2014 to qualified principal applicants.  The NDAA does not include a date by which these visas must be issued, so consular officers have the authority to issue visas under this program until all 2,500 numbers have been used worldwide.  The Iraqi SIV program will end after all visas have been issued.

Under this legislation, the one-year period during which principal applicants must have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq begins on or after March 20, 2003, and ends on or before September 30, 2013.  The legislation includes a requirement that the principal applicant must apply for Chief of Mission approval no later than September 30, 2014.

Those applicants with cases pending do not need to re-file.  If your petition has been approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), we encourage you to provide all requested documents to the National Visa Center (NVC) immediately so that your visa interview can be scheduled promptly.  

We recognize that many who have been employed or worked on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq, and their families, face real threats as a result of their U.S. government affiliation. We take these threats, and the concerns of those who work with us, very seriously and we are committed to providing them with the benefits for which they are legally eligible.

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for U.S. affiliated Iraqis remains an option, as the eligibility criteria are very similar to those of the SIV program.  For more information on USRAP, please visit http://iraq.usembassy.gov/refugeesidpaffairs.html.

 

What Does this Mean for Me? 

If you have not yet applied for Chief of Mission approval: If you meet the current program requirements but have not yet submitted your application package to the Chief of Mission you must do so no later than September 30, 2014.   

If your Chief of Mission (COM) application is pending at National Visa Center (NVC) while documentarily incomplete:  We encourage you to provide all missing documents from your COM application to the NVC as soon possible.  If you were formerly employed by a Department of Defense contractor and are missing current contact information for you American citizen supervisor, you may submit a supervisor locator application, form DS-158.  For more information on the supervisor locator tool, visit: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_5595.html.  

If you have received a Chief of Mission approval letter, but have not yet filed a petition: We encourage you to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as quickly as possible. 

If you have filed your petition with USCIS but your case remains documentarily incomplete: We encourage you to provide all missing documents to the National Visa Center (NVC) at your earliest opportunity so that your visa interview can be scheduled. 

If you are waiting for your visa interview: Please be sure to bring all required documents with you to your visa interview to avoid processing delays.  If you plan to have an attorney or other accredited representative appear with you during your SIV interview, their arrival must be approved and coordinated in advance by the Consular Section in Baghdad.  Please write to BaghdadIV@state.gov at least two weeks in advance of the interview date with the name, title, and qualifications/accreditations of the attorney or other representative.

If you have completed your interview and your case is pending administrative processing: The Consular Section will contact you when the administrative processing for your case is complete. In the meantime, you may wish to update expired documents. Please check your email regularly for correspondence regarding expired documents, and to ensure that your case can be completed when the administrative processing is complete. If your email address or phone has changed, please inform the Consular Section via our online inquiry form: http://iraq.usembassy.gov/ivform.html

If your visa is ready for issuance but your family members’ cases are still pending: Derivative family members (i.e. spouses and children) remain eligible to receive an SIV, provided that the principal applicant:

  1. Has already immigrated to the United States; or,
  2. Will travel with the derivative family member(s) and request admission to the United States during the validity of the principal applicant’s visa.



Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  I have submitted an application for an SIV but haven’t received Chief of Mission approval.  What are my options?

A.  Those applicants with cases pending do not need to re-file. 

Q.  My application was approved by the Chief of Mission but I was never scheduled for a visa interview.  Can my case still be approved?

A.  Those applicants with cases pending do not need to re-file.

If you have not yet filed a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you should do so quickly.

If your petition has been approved by USCIS, we encourage you to provide all requested documents to the National Visa Center so that your visa interview can be scheduled.

SIV applicants who are not issued visas may wish to consider applying for refugee status under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).  For more information, please visit: http://iraq.usembassy.gov/refugeesidpaffairs.html

Q.  My visa application is at the U.S. Embassy but I haven’t heard whether or not my case was approved.  How can I find out?

A.  The Embassy will contact you directly if your case has been issued or denied.  If your passport is with the consular section and your case is approved, it will be returned to you via the courier service at the location specified by you.

Q.  What if I have not been contacted?  Does that mean my case was denied or canceled?

A.  The Embassy will contact you directly if your case has been issued or denied.

Q.  I received my visa but my spouse has not.  We were told that the case is still in administrative processing.  Can his/her visa still be issued?

A.  Yes, if your visa is still unexpired or you have already used it to immigrate to the United States, your spouse may be able to qualify. 

Q.  The U.S. government made a commitment and promise to Iraqis who worked with the U.S. government to protect them.  How can the SIV program end while people are still in the process?

A.  We recognize that many who have been employed by or worked on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq, and their families, face real threats as a result of their U.S. government affiliation.  We take these threats, and the concerns of those who work with us, very seriously and we are committed to providing them with the benefits for which they are legally eligible.  We continue to make every effort to ensure that qualified applicants are issued visas under this program.

Iraqis who face threats because of their affiliation with the U.S. government may also apply to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).  For more information, please visit: http://iraq.usembassy.gov/refugeesidpaffairs.html

Q.  My case is not yet approved, but I have reason to fear for my safety.  Can my case be expedited?  

A.  Any applicant who has reason to fear for his/her wellbeing should address those concerns immediately and should not wait for completion of the SIV process.  Should you relocate, your case could be forwarded to the Consular Section responsible for that area.    


Who is Eligible to Apply?

Iraqi nationals who have worked with the U.S. government may be eligible for one of the two Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs.  Each SIV program has different requirements.

The Kennedy SIV Program for Iraqi Nationals Who Worked for or on Behalf of the U.S. Government:

(ARABIC PDF from Travel.State.Gov)

  • The applicant must be a national of Iraq.
  • The applicant must have been employed by, or on behalf of the United States Government in Iraq, on or after March 20, 2003, for at least one year before September 30, 2013. 
  • The applicant must have provided faithful and valuable service to the United States Government, which is documented in a letter of recommendation from the employee’s supervisor that is approved by the Chief of Mission (COM).
  • The applicant must have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of his/her employment by the United States Government.

There are other eligibility requirements for this program.  For detailed information about the Kennedy program, please visit Travel.state.gov.

The SIV Program for Iraqi National Translators/Interpreters:

  • The applicant must be a national of Iraq.
  • The applicant must have worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission authority as a translator or interpreter for a period of at least one year.
  • The applicant must have obtained a favorable written recommendation from a General or Flag Officer, or from the Chief of Mission from the Embassy where he/she worked.

IMPORTANT: There is an annual limitation of 50 visas in this category.  Given this limit, many individuals opt to apply for the other SIV category.  For information about the SIV program for Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters, please visit Travel.state.gov.

The Refugee Resettlement Program: Some SIV applicants may also be eligible to apply for the U.S. refugee resettlement program.  Refugee processing is handled by a different office within the Embassy – for information on the refugee program coordinated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), please visit the Office of Refugee and Internally Displaced Person Affairs.

How do I apply?

Step One: Obtain Chief of Mission (COM) or a General’s Recommendation: The first step in applying for a Special Immigrant Visa depends on which SIV program you have selected. 

  • If you are applying for the Special Immigrant Visa Program for Iraqis Who Worked for/on Behalf of the U.S. Government (also known as the Kennedy Program), request Chief of Mission approval.  Submit a letter of recommendation*, evidence of ongoing serious threat, form DS-157, and other supporting documentation to IraqSIVapplication@state.gov.  Read additional details.
  • If you are applying for the Interpreter/Translator program, obtain a written recommendation* from a General or Flag Officer in your chain of command or from the Chief of Mission from the Embassy where you worked.  Read additional information on the requirements of these recommendations.

*Letters of Recommendation: To facilitate the application process, the Department of State has partnered with the Department of Defense to provide a web-based Supervisor Locator Program for Special Immigrant Visa applicants.  This service will help Iraqi nationals who worked with the U.S. military to locate former supervisors and obtain letters of recommendation.  For more information on the Supervisor Locator Service, please click here.

Step Two: Filing the petition with USCIS:  File the immigrant visa petition (Form I-360) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  The Department of State has partnered with USCIS to allow electronic submission of the form I-360, the SIV petition.  This modification will help to make the process easier, efficient and faster. 

SIV applicants who complete the form I-360 may now scan and email it directly to the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) at NSCI360IVAPP@uscis.dhs.gov.  The NSC will process the form and upon receipt, will send a receipt to the email address written on the form.  If there is no email address submitted with the form, the receipt will be sent electronically to the email address from which the petition was submitted.  For more information on the I-360 electronic submission service, please click here.

Please note that if you submit your I-360 by email, that you must bring the same original, signed Form I-360 that was submitted to NSC with you to the consular interview.

If you are applying as an Iraqi Who Worked for/on Behalf of the U.S. Government (also known as the Kennedy Program), please, read additional details on the petition process.  If you are applying for the Iraqi Translator program, please read more details.  You may also send an email to USCIS at SIVTranslator.NSC@dhs.gov with any questions regarding the petition process or required documentation. 

Step Three: National Visa Center: Once USCIS approves your petition, they will forward it to NVC.  NVC will then contact you with instructions on submitting the necessary forms and personal documents.  They will then schedule your visa interview and forward the case to the Embassy in Baghdad.  Please make sure you provide NVC with your current email address.  If NVC told you they are processing your petition, you may reach them at NVCSIV@state.gov.  Additional information on the NVC part of the process can be found by clicking here.

Step Four: The Visa Interview: NVC will send your file to the Embassy.  All family members over the age of 14 must appear in person at the interview.  For detailed instructions on obtaining the required medical exam, gathering the necessary documents and translations, or accessing the International Zone for your interview, please contact us.  Each applicant for the Iraqi Interpreter/Translator program must pay $220 U.S. dollars in cash at the time of the interview.  There is no fee for applicants applying for the Iraqi Who Worked for or on Behalf of the U.S. Government (also known as the Kennedy Program).

Resettlement assistance: Special Immigrant Visa applicants are able to obtain resettlement assistance.  The Benefits Election Form in your instruction package from NVC explains the resettlement benefits available to you.  Complete the Resettlement Benefits Election Form and return a scanned copy to the National Visa Center at NVCSIV@state.gov.  Please see step 5 for additional details on the process.

You may find more information in our Frequently Asked Questions about visas