Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) are available to some people who worked with the U.S. Government or its contractors in Iraq or Afghanistan. People who receive SIVs can enter the United States with lawful permanent residence. This is also called a green card.
If you were injured during your employment, you may be eligible for financial compensation from the U.S. government. Financial compensation is not related to the SIV program or any other kind of immigration. It is a different process.
People who worked for the United Kingdom in Afghanistan can find IRAP’s guide on the United Kingdom’s programs here.
Can I apply now for an SIV?
There are three SIV programs for Iraqis and Afghans with U.S. connections.
Iraqi SIV Program
The Iraqi SIV program is for certain Iraqis who were employed in Iraq by the U.S. government or its contractors. The deadline to apply for this program was September 30, 2014. Applications are no longer accepted. However, if you applied prior to that date and received COM approval, you can continue the application process. More information about the Iraqi SIV program is here.
Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government, contractors, media, or non-governmental organization may also be eligible for the Iraqi Direct Access Program. IRAP’s guide about the Iraqi Direct Access Program is here.
Iraqi and Afghan Translator/Interpreter SIV Program (1059):
The second SIV program is for Iraqis and Afghans who worked directly with U.S. Armed Forces or under the Chief of Mission authority as translators or interpreters. The U.S. issues up to 50 visas for this program every year.
You must meet ALL of the following requirements to qualify for this SIV:
- You must be a citizen of Afghanistan or Iraq; and
- You have worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or the Chief of Mission as a translator or interpreter for at least 12 cumulative months; and
- You have a favorable written recommendation from a General or Flag Officer. The General should be in the chain of command of the U.S. Armed Forces unit that you supported as a translator or interpreter. The Flag Officer or the Chief of Mission should work at the embassy where you worked.
Afghans who were employed by the U.S. SIV (602(b))
The third SIV program is for certain Afghans who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government or by ISAF. The application period for this program remains open. The State Department’s guide on the Afghan SIV program is here.
If you have not applied previously, you must meet ALL of the following requirements to qualify for this SIV:
- You must be a citizen of Afghanistan; and
- You were employed in Afghanistan for at least one year;
- By the U.S. government; or;
- By a contractor with a contract for funding from the U.S. government; or;
- With ISAF.
- You must have provided faithful and valuable service; and
- You face an ongoing serious threat because of your work.
If you have already applied, there may be different requirements that apply to you.
How can I tell if I was employed by the U.S. government, by a contractor with a contract for funding from the U.S. government, or by ISAF?
If you were a U.S. government or ISAF employee, you would have been paid directly by the U.S. government or ISAF. If you were employed by a company or organization, you would have to learn if the company or organization was working on a U.S. government “contract.”
What is a U.S. government “contract”?
A “contract” is one way that the U.S. government agreed with and paid companies to do work in Afghanistan. However, the U.S. government did not pay all companies and organizations in Afghanistan through a “contract.” Some companies or organizations were paid in different ways through “grants,” “awards,” or “cooperative agreements.” See IRAP’s guide about finding information about a U.S. government contract here.
Does employment under a “grants,” “award,” or “cooperative agreement” qualify for an SIV?
The U.S. government has decided that only employees of companies or organizations that had “contracts” qualify for SIVs. Employees of companies or organizations that only received U.S. government funding through “grants,” “awards,” or “cooperative agreements” do not qualify for SIVs under this decision. If a company had contracts and other funding, the applicants who worked under U.S. government contracts can qualify for an SIV.
Has employment for the government of Afghanistan or the United Nations qualified for an SIV?
According to the U.S. government, employment for the government of Afghanistan or an international organization like the United Nations does not qualify for an SIV.
Has employment for companies that had a contract with ISAF qualified for an SIV?
Employment for companies or organizations that have only had contracts or other funding with ISAF has also not qualified for an SIV. Companies must have had a U.S. government contract or subcontract.
Are there any options for applicants who do not qualify for SIVs?
See IRAP’s guide on the U.S.’ Afghan refugee program here if you are not eligible for an SIV for any of these reasons:
- You worked for less than one year
- You worked for a company that only had a “grant,” “award,” or “cooperative agreement,” or
- You worked for a U.S.-based media company or NGO.
Spouses and children
Applicants who qualify for SIVs through any of these programs can also apply for visas for their spouse and unmarried children under 21. More information for SIV recipients who traveled without their spouse or children is here.
How can I apply?
The Iraqi SIV program is now closed for new applications. Iraqis can find information about the I-360, DS-260 and visa application, and visa interview below.
Step one: Chief of Mission (COM) approval
If you are an Afghan SIV applicant you need to obtain Chief of Mission (COM) approval. More information on the COM process is located on the U.S. Department of State website here. At this step, you must submit information and documents to the COM over email. These documents include:
- Verification of your employment, also called a human resources letter.
- IRAP’s guide on what this letter should include is here.
- If you need help contacting your employer, IRAP’s guide is here.
- A recommendation letter from your supervisor.
- IRAP’s guide on what this letter should include is here.
- If you need help contacting your supervisor, IRAP’s guide is here.
- Proof that you worked for a company that worked with U.S. government funding.
If you already started your COM application, but you do not have an answer on your application, IRAP’s guide on how to submit new documents for your COM application is here.
If you face long delays, IRAP’s guide on delayed U.S. immigration applications is here.
If your COM application is denied, IRAP’s guide on COM appeals is here.
IMPORTANT: As of July 20, 2022, the U.S. government changed the SIV process. Before July 2022, all SIV applicants had to file I-360 petitions with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you are filing a new SIV application after July 20, 2022, then you do not need to submit an I-360 petition. If you filed your SIV application before July 20, 2022, then read IRAP’s guide on the removal of the I-360 petition requirement to see if you need to file an I-360 petition.
Step two: Complete the visa application (if outside of the U.S.) or apply to adjust status (if within the U.S.)
After you receive COM approval you must apply for a visa or to adjust your status. If you are applying from outside of the U.S., you must complete the DS-260 and visa application process. IRAP’s guide on submitting the DS-260 visa application is here. If you are applying from within the U.S., you must complete the I-485 and adjustment of status process. IRAP’s guide on submitting the I-485 adjustment of status application is here.
IMPORTANT: For some applications filed before July 20, 2022, you may need to file an I-360 petition with USCIS and receive petition approval before you. Read IRAP’s guide on the removal of the I-360 petition requirement to see if you need to file an I-360 petition.
Step three: The visa or adjustment of status interview
For applicants who are applying outside of the U.S., IRAP’s guide on how to prepare for the visa interview is here for Iraqi SIV interviews and here for Afghan SIV interviews. If you face long delays after your interview, IRAP’s guide on delayed U.S. immigration applications is here. IRAP does not currently have a guide for adjustment of status interviews for applicants within the U.S.
If your COM approval is revoked, IRAP’s guide on filing a COM appeal is here.
If a person applying from outside of the U.S. has their SIV approved and issued, they can travel to the United States. More information on the SIV travel process is available on the Department of State’s website here.
Can I still begin the SIV application process even though the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan is currently closed?
Yes. Step one (COM approval) is completed over email for all applicants.
You or your relative may want to ask an immigration attorney for help with this process. Here are a few resources:
- Information about asking for help from IRAP is here.
- If you are in Jordan, you can ask for IRAP Jordan’s help using this form. If the form is closed, you can check back at a later date.
- A list of free immigration legal service providers in the United States is available here.
- A list of private immigration attorneys in the United States is available here.