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Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans - Who Were Employed by/on Behalf of the U.S. Government

Afghan SIV Program Update


The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2018 as signed by President Trump on December 12, 2017 allocated 3,500 additional visas for Afghan principal applicants, for a total of 14,500 visas allocated since December 19, 2014.  The Department of State’s authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghan nationals under section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended, will continue until all visa numbers allocated under the Act are issued.

 

Overview

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What is this program?

A special immigrant is a person who qualifies for lawful permanent residence under one of several programs.  Section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended, is a special immigrant program which authorizes the issuance of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghan nationals who meet certain requirements and who were employed in Afghanistan:

  • by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan, or
  • by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission, in a capacity that required the applicant to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF or to perform sensitive and trusted activities for U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF.

The SIV program requires applicants to have been employed for a minimum of two years, between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2020. Applicants must also have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of their employment. For more information about the relevant U.S. laws, see References - U.S. Laws.

In addition to the information on this website, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has posted on its website a fact sheet and information on Form I-360 petitions for this program.

This program is completely distinct from another program authorizing SIVs for certain Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters who worked directly with the United States Armed Forces or under COM authority, although some translators and interpreters may qualify under both programs. For information on that program, see Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters.

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What is meant by fiscal year?

The fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends September 30.

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What is meant by successor mission?

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission ended on December 31, 2014, and the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM) began on January 1, 2015. Section 1227 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2015 expanded the SIV program to certain Afghans who had been employed by ISAF, but did not provide for SIVs for Afghans employed by successor missions. Section 1216 of the NDAA for FY 2016 expands qualification to now include Afghans employed by ISAF successor missions. Certain Afghans employed by RSM, as well as any future successor missions to ISAF, may now qualify for the Afghan SIV program.  Applicants who were employed by ISAF, RSM, or a successor mission, or a combination of these entities, must meet all of the SIV program requirements explained in Step 1

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How many Special Immigrant Visas can be issued under this program?

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2017 authorized the issuance of 8,500 visas since December 19, 2014.  The program will end when all 8,500 visas have been issued. SIVs issued to a principal applicant’s spouse and children do not count toward the numerical limit.

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Who can apply for this program?

You may apply for this program if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • You must be a national of Afghanistan;
  • You must have been employed in Afghanistan for a period of at least two years between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2020: 
    • by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government; in a capacity that required you to serve as an interpreter or translator for personnel of the Department of State or USAID; to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel; or to perform sensitive and trusted activities for the U.S. government; or
    • by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission, in a capacity that required you to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF, or a successor mission, or to perform sensitive and trusted activities for U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF, or a successor mission;
  • You must have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. government, or ISAF, or a successor mission, as applicable, which is documented in a letter of recommendation; and
  • You must have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of such employment.

You must apply no later than December 31, 2020. Specific requirements for each step of the process are detailed below.

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What about my family? Can my family members immigrate with me?

Your spouse, as well as unmarried children younger than age 21, may be granted SIVs, and may travel with you or may follow to join you after you have been admitted to the United States.

STEP 1 - Apply for Chief of Mission Approval

Click here   to view detailed Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval in English (PDF - 246 KB)

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What documents are required for Chief of Mission (COM) approval?

Follow the detailed Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval.

The following documents are required from applicants who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government:

  • Verification of at least two years of employment by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan:  a letter from your employer’s Human Resources (HR) department confirming that you were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Afghanistan between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2020 for at least two years.
  • Letter of Recommendation from your direct, U.S. citizen supervisor.
  • Statement of threats you received as a consequence of your employment with the U.S. government.
  • A completed Form DS-157, Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application (PDF - 278 KB).
  • Evidence of Afghan nationality: A scanned copy of your passport or taskera (with English translation). (At the time of the visa interview, applicants must provide new Afghan machine-readable e-passports.)
  • Your biographic data, and a scanned copy of your employee badge (if available).

The following documents are required from applicants who were employed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission:

  • Verification of at least two years of employment with ISAF, or a successor mission:  a letter from the Human Resources (HR) department confirming that you were employed by ISAF, or a successor mission, for a period of two years or more between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2020. If you were directly hired by ISAF, or a successor mission, this letter must be from ISAF Headquarters HR, or regardless of where you were stationed in Afghanistan.  If you were hired by an ISAF member nation, this letter must come from the department or agency that hired you.
  • Letter of Recommendation from a member of the U.S. military who personally worked with you.
  • Statement of threats you received as a consequence of your employment with the U.S. government.
  • A completed Form DS-157, Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application (PDF - 278 KB).
  • Evidence of Afghan nationality: A scanned copy of your passport or taskera (with English translation). (At the time of the visa interview, applicants must provide new Afghan machine-readable e-passports.)
  • Your biographic data, and a scanned copy of your employee badge (if available).

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The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2016 increased the required length of service to two years for Afghans submitting new applications after September 30, 2015. What required length of service must I demonstrate?

Applicants who submit applications for Chief of Mission (COM) approval on or after October 1, 2015 must demonstrate two years of qualifying service. You are considered to have submitted an application for Chief of Mission (COM) approval if you sent an email to the National Visa Center indicating you are seeking COM approval and providing, at a minimum, your name, date of birth, evidence of Afghan nationality, and email address.  Applicants who submitted applications on or before September 30, 2015 must demonstrate one year of qualifying service.  

A complete application for COM approval requires all of the information and documents listed in the above Q/A and in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval (PDF - 291 KB), but an expression of interest, along with name, date of birth, evidence of Afghan nationality, and email address, is sufficient for determination of the date on which COM approval was sought.

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What is required in the HR letter from my employer?

The HR letter should confirm that you were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government, or by ISAF or a successor mission, for at least two years and must include the details outlined in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval (PDF - 291 KB).

Afghans employed by an organization under a U.S. grant or cooperative agreement are not eligible for the SIV program; if you are unsure of whether this is the case, please inquire with your HR department before you apply for Chief of Mission approval. Afghans who were employed by contractors or subcontractors to work at ISAF, or a successor mission, do not qualify for the SIV program.

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Who may submit the letter of recommendation?

If you were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government: The letter of recommendation should normally be from the U.S. citizen who directly supervises you, or supervises the company for which you are employed and must include the details outlined the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval.

If you were employed by ISAF, or a successor mission:  The letter of recommendation should be from a member of the U.S. military who personally worked with you and must include the details outlined in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval

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What if I am unable to locate or need assistance contacting my former U.S. military or Department of Defense supervisor?

If your previous supervisor was U.S. military or an employee of the U.S. Department of Defense and you are having trouble locating him or her, the Supervisor Locator can possibly help. Learn more.

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What if it is not possible for me, as a contract employee employed on behalf of the U.S. government, to obtain this recommendation from a U.S. citizen supervisor?

You should provide a letter of recommendation signed by your non-U.S. citizen supervisor and co-signed by the U.S. citizen who is responsible for the contract. The letter must include the details outlined in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval

Afghans who were employed by contractors or subcontractors to work at ISAF, or a successor mission, do not qualify for the SIV program.

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Why do applicants who were employed by contractors or subcontractors on behalf of the U.S. government qualify for the SIV program, but applicants who were employed by contractors or subcontractors on behalf of ISAF, or a successor mission, do not?

Section 1227 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2015, which expanded the program to include certain Afghans who were employed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and section 1216 of the NDAA for FY 2016, which expands the program to include Afghans who were employed by successor missions to ISAF, do not include contractors or subcontractors with ISAF, or successor missions.  Section 1227 of the FY 2015 NDAA states only that qualifying applicants must be employed “by the International Security Assistance Force,” interpreted to include direct hires by ISAF or ISAF member nations. While section 1216 of the FY 2016 NDAA expanded qualification for the SIV program to certain Afghans employed by successor missions to ISAF, the language did not include contractors and subcontractors.

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I began working for ISAF and I now work for Resolute Support Mission (RSM) following the transition from ISAF to RSM. Will I qualify for the program?

You may qualify if you have a total of at least two years of employment between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2016 with ISAF, or a successor mission, in a capacity that required you to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF, or a successor mission, or to perform sensitive and trusted activities for U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF, or a successor mission.

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Is there a template or format for the letter of recommendation?

There is no required format, but the letter must include the details outlined in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval. Generic form letters from supervisors are not helpful to your application. All letters of recommendation should be proofread closely.  Letters of recommendation with significant spelling and grammar errors may delay processing. 

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How do I demonstrate an “ongoing serious threat”?

You must write, sign, and date a brief statement describing the threat you face as a result of your employment with or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan. Although statements provided by other parties may be included, you must also provide your own statement. Please provide as many details as possible. 

Section 1219 of Public Law 113-66 provides that a credible sworn statement depicting dangerous country conditions, together with official evidence of such country conditions from the U.S government, should be considered as a factor in a determination of whether an applicant has experienced or is experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of employment by the U.S. government.

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If I have a record of disciplinary actions that have been taken against me, will I be automatically disqualified from receiving a visa under this program?

The Chief of Mission, or his/her designee, will assess the gravity of the reasons for the disciplinary action and whether your record as a whole, notwithstanding the disciplinary actions, is one of faithful service. It will generally be more difficult for you to demonstrate faithful service if the record reflects that disciplinary action has been taken against you.

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How do I submit my documents for Chief of Mission approval?

Send all required documents by email to the National Visa Center (NVC) at: AfghanSIVapplication@state.gov.

You will need an email address to facilitate communication with the NVC, both to submit documents and receive instructions.

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By what date may I apply for Chief of Mission approval?

You must submit an application including, at a minimum, name, date of birth, evidence of Afghan nationality, and an email address, to the National Visa Center no later than December 31, 2020. However, only complete Chief of Mission applications containing all required documents and information will be forwarded to U.S. Embassy Kabul for a decision by the Chief of Mission designee. Applicants who meet the December 31, 2020 deadline may provide additional required information or documentation following that date.

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What happens after I submit my documents?

The NVC will collect and review your documents. Once the NVC deems the application packet complete, it is forwarded to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, where the Chief of Mission (COM) SIV approval designee and staff will review your case. If approved, a Chief of Mission Approval letter will be sent to you via email with instructions on how to send your application and a Form I-360 petition to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center. See Step 2 below.

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Who is the Chief of Mission (COM)?

The Chief of Mission (COM) is the principal officer in charge of a diplomatic mission and is appointed by the President. For more information, visit the website of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

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What happens if my Chief of Mission application is denied?

Applicants whose Chief of Mission (COM) applications are denied will receive a letter of denial by email which will provide an explanation of the basis for denial. You may file one appeal of a COM denial, and it must be filed within 120 days of receiving the denial letter by email. Your appeal should request that your denied COM application be reopened and should provide additional information pertinent to your application, clarify existing information in your original application, or explain any unfavorable information that was contained in the letter of denial.

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If I have already been scheduled for an interview or have been interviewed as a refugee, but am also eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa, which application should I pursue?

You determine which route you choose to pursue. Both processes take several months to complete. Registration and application for either program is not a guarantee of eventual admission to the United States. You may pursue both applications simultaneously. The refugee and SIV programs differ in process and eligibility. Please consult the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration website for more information about accessing the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

You may apply for both the refugee and SIV programs at the same time. At the time of your interview with a U.S. government official for either refugee or SIV status, you should ask that your case in the other status be closed. You may be asked to submit a written request to close your other case.

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What if I have questions about the Chief of Mission Letter?

If you have questions about your Chief of Mission letter, please contact the National Visa Center at AfghanSIVapplication@state.gov.

STEP 2 - File a Petition with USCIS

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Who files the petition? What documents are required with the petition?

You must submit the following package of documents directly to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center:

  • A completed Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. [NOTE: To be properly filed, the Form I-360 must include your original signature.]
  • A copy of your passport or taskera showing that you are a national of Afghanistan, along with a certified English translation, if the document is not in English. (At the time of the visa interview, applicants must provide new Afghan machine-readable e-passports.)
  • A copy of the letter of recommendation that you sent to NVC when you applied for Chief of Mission (COM) Approval.
  • A copy of your COM approval, which should note that the COM or his/her designee:
    • Has determined that you have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government or by ISAF, or a successor mission, on or after October 7, 2001, and prior to December 31, 2020, for a period of not less than two years;
    • Has conducted an independent review of records maintained by the U.S. government or hiring organization or entity to confirm employment and determined that you have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. government; and
    • Has determined that you have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of your employment by the U.S. government.
  • If you are in the United States when you file the petition, a copy of the front and back of your paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.
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Where do I find the forms?
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How do I file the petition?

There are no filing or biometric fees associated with this petition, you may scan and email your petition with the required documents (preferably in pdf format) to the following email address:

NSCI360SIVAPP@uscis.dhs.gov

Please note 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.

Or you may send the original I-360 and required documents by either regular mail or overnight delivery, to the appropriate address below.

Regular Mail:
USCIS/ Nebraska Service Center (NSC)
P.O. Box 87485
Lincoln, NE 68501-7485

Overnight Deliveries:
USCIS/ Nebraska Service Center (NSC)
850 “S” Street
Lincoln, NE 68508

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What return email or mailing address should I use on the Form I-360 petition?

If you scan and email your Form I-360 petition, include the email address you want USCIS to use to send your electronic receipt (Form I-797). If no email address is submitted with the form, the receipt notice will be sent electronically to the email address from which the petition was submitted. 

USCIS cannot send mail outside the United States except to an APO address. If you have access to an APO address, USCIS will use this address. If you do not have access to an APO address, but you have family, friends, or an attorney with an address in the United States, you may list their address (with their permission). In Part 1, line 3, the family member’s, friend’s, or attorney’s name must be listed in the C/O (in care of) section; otherwise the post office will not deliver the mail. You should also list your email address as this is the best way for USCIS to reach you.

If you don’t have an APO address or an address in the United States, you should list your email address.

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Where will my petition be adjudicated? Who makes the decision?

All petitions for this program are adjudicated at USCIS Nebraska Service Center. If approved, USCIS will forward your petition to NVC, which will then contact you by email to begin collecting the necessary documentation to support your visa application. NVC also will schedule your visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas.

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When the numerical limit of visas is reached, will my petition be rejected and have to be refiled?

USCIS will continue to process each petition, even after the numerical limit of visas has been reached. When your petition has been approved, it will be sent to NVC. If visas are available, NVC will contact you to schedule the visa interview. If visas are no longer available, NVC will hold the petition.

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What is the difference between Part 1 and Part 3 of the Form I-360? Should both parts be completed?

Part 1 and Part 3 contain similar information, but Part 3 includes additional required information. Both parts should be completed.

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In Part 2, what box should be checked?

You should check box “N” - Special Immigrant Afghan National who was employed by or on behalf of the U.S. Government or the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

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What are the fees associated with filing the petition?

Under this particular program, there are no filing or biometric fees associated with filing the petition.

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If I am an Afghan refugee already in the United States, can I file Form I-485 with USCIS to apply for adjustment from refugee to SIV status?

No. A refugee in the United States is not eligible to file Form I-485 and make an application to adjust from refugee to SIV status. Under U.S. law, an employment-based immigrant must be in valid nonimmigrant status in order to apply for adjustment. Instead, a refugee may adjust to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status one year after his or her refugee admission. (Note: there is no fee for applicants who are filing Form I-485 to adjust to LPR status based on having been admitted to the United States as a refugee.)

See the USCIS website for further information.

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My question wasn’t answered here. Where can I get more information about filing a Form I-360 petition?

If you need further information about the petition filing process, you may email the USCIS Nebraska Service Center at SIVTranslator.NSC@dhs.gov.

STEP 3 - Prepare for Your Visa Application

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When will my case be ready for visa processing?

Once NVC receives your approved petition from USCIS, NVC will contact you by email to advise you to begin collecting the appropriate documents to move ahead with your visa application. NVC will schedule your immigrant visa interview for you and your family at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas. NVC will forward your SIV case to that U.S. Embassy or Consulate for your visa interview. NVC will work with you to schedule your appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country in which you reside or to which you can easily travel.

You must provide an email address to facilitate communication with NVC. You may contact NVC by email at NVCSIV@state.gov.

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What documents do I need to send to NVC for visa processing?

You must submit the following forms and documents for yourself and all family members also applying for visas. If you have previously submitted any of these documents to NVC, you do not need to submit them to NVC again.

  • Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.
    • Preview a sample DS-260 (PDF - 6.4MB);
  • A copy of the biodata page from the passport of each applicant (Each passport must be valid for at least 12 months beyond the anticipated visa interview date, and applicants must provide new Afghan machine-readable e-passports.);
  • Scanned copies of a birth certificate/taskera for each applicant, and any other civil documents showing the relationship between you and your spouse and/or minor children (e.g. marriage (Nikah Khet) and divorce certificates, adoption decrees, etc.);
  • Police certificates are NOT required if you are a resident of Afghanistan. However, if you have lived in a different country for more than 12 months since reaching the age of 16, then you must submit a police certificate from the authorities of that locality. See additional information how to obtain a police certificate.
  • A completed Refugee Benefits Election Form (PDF - 56 KB);
  • A completed DS-0234, Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (PDF - 312 KB) (if you elect to receive Resettlement Benefits; see explanation below).

All documents must be accompanied by an English translation. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator that the translation is accurate, and the translator is competent to translate.

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I have a question about which documents I need for the visa interview.

If you have questions about gathering the necessary documents for the visa application, please contact the National Visa Center at NVCSIV@state.gov.

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How do I submit my documents to NVC?

Please scan and send all documentation to NVC via email at NVCSIV@state.gov. Do not mail any original documents or photos to NVC. You should hand-carry your original documents and photos with you to your visa interview.

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Am I eligible for Resettlement Benefits?

Yes. Afghan special immigrants are eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, for a period of up to eight (8) months after being admitted to the United States.

If you wish to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program, which covers only your first 30-90 days in the United States, you must apply for it before you arrive in the United States.

To apply, you must return scanned, signed copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form (PDF - 56 KB) (signature required) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB), included in the visa instruction packet, to NVC as soon as possible but no later than 10 calendar days after the date your visa is issued. In addition, you must submit to NVC a scanned copy of your visa as soon as possible but no later than 30 calendar days prior to the visa’s expiration. You should not wait to submit the Refugee Benefits Election Form and the Special Immigrant Biodata Form (DS-0234) until visa issuance. All three items must be received by NVC prior to the deadlines indicated above. Failure to do so will result in the denial of any future request for Department of State-funded resettlement benefits. Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

If you decline to receive Department of State-funded resettlement benefits, you may still be eligible to receive benefits funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). Unlike Department of State-funded benefits, HHS/ORR-funded benefits can be claimed upon arrival in the United States. Additional information about HHS/ORR-funded benefits can be found here.

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I submitted an SIV petition. How do I find out the status of my application?

When your approved petition reaches NVC, you will be advised by email and provided with instructions. If you believe that you have an approved petition, but you have not been contacted by NVC, or you have questions about your pending SIV case after the petition has been approved, please email NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov or call 1-603-334-0828 and provide your USCIS receipt number, full name, and date of birth. Customer Service Representatives at NVC are available from 7:30 a.m. to midnight (EST). The hours for congressional inquiries are from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (EST).

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My question wasn’t answered here. Where can I get more information about my approved petition?

You may email NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov.

Step 4 - The Visa Interview

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Is a personal interview required?

Yes. After USCIS has approved your petition, an interview is required to determine if you are eligible for a visa. You must appear in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate where a consular officer will interview you. U.S. law also requires you to submit fingerprints, which will be taken at the interview. The consular officer will also require evidence that you plan to resign from your position in order to immigrate to the United States.

Each family member who is applying for a visa with you must also appear at the embassy or consulate for an interview.

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If I am in Afghanistan, can my interview be conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul?

Yes. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, conducts interviews for and issues immigrant visas. If you are in another country, the interview will be conducted at the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate that adjudicates immigrant visa applications. You can find a list of our embassies and consulates at http://www.usembassy.gov.

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May my family accompany me or follow to join me in the United States?

Yes, your spouse, as well as your unmarried minor children under age 21, may accompany you to the United States or follow to join you in the United States. These family members must also attend the visa interview. You must provide proof of the marriage relationship to your spouse and the relationship to your children. Your family members may not precede you in entering the U.S.

NOTE: We strongly advise you to bring your spouse and minor dependent children with you to your visa interview. This will facilitate having all eligible family members travel to the United States together. If it is not possible for your family members to travel to the interview with you, they will be required to schedule interviews at a later date and may follow-to-join you in the United States at a later time.

If you marry after your petition is approved but before you travel to the United States, your new spouse may be added to the original petition. You should immediately contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where your interview took place, to notify consular officials that your new spouse should be added to the petition and an interview scheduled. If you marry a foreign national after you have already traveled to the United States, you will need to file a new petition for your spouse.

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What happens if the principal applicant dies after approval of the petition?

Your spouse or children may, in some circumstances, still be eligible for a visa if a petition had been approved by USCIS, but the petition was revoked or terminated after its approval due to the death of the principal applicant.

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What documents should I bring to the visa interview?

Please bring your passport, any military photo identification (if available), civilian identification badges, and originals of any civil documents, such as marriage certificates, taskeras or death certificates, including all documents that were submitted by email to the NVC. (Applicants must provide new Afghan machine-readable e-passports.) At the visa interview, you will also be expected to provide written evidence of your intent to immigrate promptly to the United States.

In addition, you should bring two recent photographs of each applicant, which meet the Photo Requirements.

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May an attorney or other representative accompany me to the visa interview?

An attorney or other accredited representative may represent you during the SIV application process, including at relevant interviews and examinations. Such representation is not to be the expense of the U.S. government.

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Will the U.S. government pay the cost of my travel to the interview or provide accommodations at the interview site?

No. When preparing for your visa interview, please plan for the possibility that you may need to stay for more than one day in the city where your interview takes place. You will not be able to complete your medical examination and interview on the same day. Some medical exams may require tests with delayed results.

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Can the U.S. Embassy arrange for my entry visas and guarantee admission to another country for my visa interview?

No. While embassies and consulates work closely with their host-country counterparts to ensure coordination on important programs, such as this SIV program, the final decision about whom to admit into a country rests with the government of that country. If you have difficulty entering another country for your visa interview, you should remain in close contact with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to which your case has been assigned.

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Is there a visa application fee?

No. Under this particular program, there is no immigrant visa application fee. You are required to pay all costs associated with the medical examination.

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Will I receive my visa on the same day as my interview?

At the conclusion of your interview, the consular officer will let you know if there are any problems with your case that might prevent issuance of a visa, or if there is missing documentation that you need to provide. However, even if your visa interview is successful, you will not receive your visa on the same day. All SIV cases require additional administrative processing after the interview.

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My question wasn’t answered here. Where can I get more information about my pending visa?

If you have received COM approval, had your petition approved by USCIS, and NVC has scheduled your case for an interview, you should directly contact the U.S. embassy or consulate to which your case has been assigned:

If your case has been assigned to: You may contact the Embassy at:
U.S. Embassy Kabul KabulIV@state.gov

Otherwise, go to http://www.usembassy.gov to locate contact information for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that is handling your case.

 

STEP 5 - Arrival in the United States

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As an Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipient, am I eligible for any benefits?

Yes. Afghan SIV recipients are eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Resettlement assistance is available under section 602(b) of Division F, Title VI, of the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2009, Public Law 111-8 to Afghans who are admitted to the United States on Special Immigrant Visas, for a period not to exceed eight months. For more information about the relevant U.S. law, see References - U.S. Laws, number 7.

The U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program covers only your first 30-90 days in the United States.

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How do I apply to receive these benefits?

If you would like to participate in the R&P Program, you must complete, sign, and return scanned copies of the following two forms, included in the visa instruction packet:

You should complete these two forms as soon as possible while you are still overseas before your visa has been issued, or upon your arrival in the United States. You should send the forms to one of the following offices, so that we can begin processing of your case and book your travel after your visa has been issued:

You must also provide a copy of your visa after it has been issued.

Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

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The instructions on the "Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)" state that it is to be completed by each beneficiary. Does that mean each member of my family needs to complete a form or is one form sufficient for all family members included on the SIV case?

You must complete a separate form for each family member and return it to NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov or the RPC at SIV@wrapsnet.org. NVC will provide you with the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB) ;as part of the visa application packet. This form can also be found on the Refugee Processing Center’s (RPC) website.

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I would like to be resettled in a specific city/state. What should I do?
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How do I obtain a travel loan?

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will prepare your travel loan and arrange your travel to the United States after your visa has been issued, if you elected to receive travel and resettlement assistance from the Department of State by submitting scanned, signed copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form (PDF - 56 KB) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB) to the NVC or the RPC. This interest-free travel loan is a benefit provided through the U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program, for which you must apply while you are still overseas. Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

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What if I have to travel immediately and cannot arrange travel through the International Organization for Migration (IOM)?

Under certain circumstances, we understand you may not have time to declare your intention to participate in the R&P Program while still overseas. If you elect to arrange your own flight, you may still be eligible for Department of State resettlement benefits or benefits funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). To determine if you qualify, please contact a resettlement affiliate as soon as possible after your arrival in the United States as your eligibility is time-limited. We recommend you contact a resettlement affiliate within 30 days after your arrival. The list of resettlement affiliates can be found on http://www.wrapsnet.org/ or click here.

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At what point can I begin to make travel arrangements, sell property, and/or give up my job?

You should NOT sell property and/or give up employment until the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General has issued a visa and the Refugee Processing Center has referred your case to IOM for travel arrangements.

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How will I know which agency is responsible for providing services to me in the U.S.?

If you choose to receive Department of State-funded Reception and Placement (R&P) services, you must fill out and return scanned copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form (PDF - 56 KB), the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB), and of your visa, after it has been issued, to NVC or the RPC while still overseas. Once you submit the copy of your issued visa, your case will be assigned to a resettlement agency before you depart for the United States. Prior to departure, the entity responsible for processing your case for R&P benefits - either a Resettlement Support Center (RSC) or the RPC - will provide you with an Assurance Form indicating your final destination in the United States and the resettlement agency that will provide services to you upon your arrival.

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If I elect to receive refugee benefits, what help will I receive once I am in the U.S., and from whom?

The Department of State funds nine (9) Resettlement Agencies that participate in the Reception and Placement (R&P) Program under a cooperative agreement. These agencies have over 300 affiliated Reception and Placement offices across the United States. The resettlement agency is responsible for providing initial reception and placement services and assisting refugees and SIV beneficiaries to achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible. All refugees and SIV recipients who elected to participate in the program are provided with sponsorship and resettlement services appropriate to their personal circumstances by one of these organizations.

The U.S. government has established guidelines and provides funding for the resettlement services that you will receive upon arrival in the United States. Your resettlement agency will have a local office in or near the town where you will be resettled and will provide basic living assistance and support for up to the first 30-90 days after you arrive. The following are some of the things you should expect to do and/or receive during your first weeks in the United States.

The resettlement agency to which you are assigned will:

  • Receive U.S. government funds and use these funds to pay for your rent and/or basic necessities. A portion of these funds may be given directly to you in cash. The resettlement agency will ensure you have a small amount of money for daily needs.
  • Ensure you have housing for your first 30 days.
  • Assist with enrolling your children in school.
  • Assist you with access to English language classes, if necessary.

With assistance from the resettlement agency, if needed, you will need to:

  • Apply for a social security card, required for work.
  • Learn about and be assisted with access to employment services. (While the resettlement agency will assist in whatever way it can, it is ultimately your responsibility to find and maintain employment.)
  • Learn to use public transportation (a car will not be provided).
  • Begin to learn about U.S customs and law.
  • Learn about and be assisted with access to community services that can help you, including social services, cash and medical assistance, and food stamps, if necessary.
  • Find out about other government services and programs and how to access services.

The program would not succeed without volunteers in communities across the United States to assist with these activities. The following organizations provide initial resettlement services to refugees and SIV recipients. You may learn more about them from information provided in their websites.

U.S. Refugee Resettlement Agencies

Church World Service (CWS)

www.churchworldservice.org

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM)

www.episcopalchurch.org/emm

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)

www.ecdcinternational.org

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)

www.hias.org

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

www.rescue.org

Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS)

www.lirs.org

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

www.refugees.org

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

http://usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/

World Relief (WR)

www.wr.org

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What if I already have a file with UNHCR or a UN number? What should I do?

If you meet the eligibility criteria of the SIV Program, you may apply for an SIV even if you are already registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and/or have an application pending with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

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Are other benefits available to me, if I decline benefits from the Department of State?

If you decline to receive Department of State-funded resettlement benefits, you may still be eligible to receive benefits funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). ORR-funded benefits are administered by states and are available through state benefit-granting agencies. After arrival in the United States, you may apply for these benefits in the state in which you reside. SIV recipients who elect to participate in the U.S. Department of State R&P Program will be assisted in applying for ORR-funded benefits by the resettlement agency providing their R&P services. If you do not elect to participate in the Department of State’s R&P Program, you must apply for these benefits on your own by contacting the State Refugee Coordinator in the state in which you live.

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If admitted to the United States, do I get U.S. citizenship? If so, how long does it take?

As an SIV recipient, you will have Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status upon admission into the United States. Once you are admitted to the United States you will be mailed your Permanent Resident Card (also known as Green Card). You are normally eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after residing for five (5) years in the United States. For more information, see naturalization information on the USCIS website.

Contact Information

If you: Please contact: At:
have questions on how to receive Chief of Mission (COM) approval,

National Visa Center (NVC)

AfghanSIVapplication@state.gov

have questions regarding filing requirements and instructions for an SIV Form I-360 petition,

USCIS Nebraska Service Center

sivtranslator.nsc@dhs.gov

have an approved Form I-360 petition and have questions regarding your case status,

National Visa Center (NVC)

NVCSIV@state.gov

have questions about your immigrant visa interview, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the interview will be scheduled You can find a list of our U.S. Embassies and Consulates at:
http://www.usembassy.gov
would like information about SIV resettlement benefits and post-arrival services,

the Refugee Processing Center

SIV@wrapsnet.org

are a supervisor of an SIV applicant that has received COM approval and would like to submit additional information in support of the pending visa application

Visa Office

SIV-Applicant-Supervisor@state.gov

 

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References – U.S. Laws

The chart below contains a list of U.S. laws relevant to Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for eligible Iraqi or Afghan nationals who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan, respectively. You can find more detailed information about each of these laws by going to the National Archives Office of the Federal Register website.

 

Law:

Information about the Law:

1 National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2018, Section 1213 of Public Law 115-91. This law, signed on December 12, 2017, authorizes the issuance of 3,500 additional visas to Afghan principal applicants with no end date by which they must be issued.
2 Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2017, Section 7083 of Public Law 115-31 This law, signed on May 5, 2017, authorizes the issuance of 2,500 additional visas to Afghan principal applicants with no end date by which they must be issued. 
3 National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017, Section 1214 of Public Law 114-326 This law, signed on December 23, 2016, extends and amends the Afghan SIV Program.  It authorizes the issuance of 1,500 additional visas to principal applicants with no end date by which they must be issued.  It also extends the date by which applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval from December 31, 2016 to December 31, 2020.  It amends eligibility for Afghans employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government who submit an application for Chief of Mission approval on or after December 23, 2016 to applicants whose employment required them to serve as an interpreter or translator for personnel of the Department of State or USAID; to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel; or to perform sensitive and trusted activities for the U.S. government.
4 National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2016, Section 1216 of Public Law 114-92 This law, signed on November 25, 2015, extends and amends the Afghan SIV Program. It authorizes the issuance of 3,000 additional visas to principal applicants with no end date by which they must be issued. It also extends the date by which applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval from December 31, 2015 to December 31, 2016 and increases the required length of service from one year to two years between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2016. It expands SIV program eligibility to certain Afghans who were employed by a successor mission to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
5 National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2015, Section 1227 of Public Law 113-291 This law, signed on December 19, 2014, extended the Afghan SIV Program. It authorized the issuance of 4,000 visas to principal applicants by September 30, 2016. It also extended the date by which applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval from December 31, 2014 to December 31, 2015 and expanded SIV program eligibility to certain Afghans who were employed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
6 Emergency Afghan Allies Extension Act of 2014, Section 1 of Public Law 113-160 This law, signed on August 8, 2014, extended the Afghan SIV Program. It authorized the issuance of 1,000 visas to principal applicants by December 31, 2014. It also extended the date by which applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval from September 30, 2014 to December 31, 2014.
7 The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, Section 7034(o) of Division K, Title VII of Public Law 113-76 This law, signed on January 17, 2014, extended the Afghan SIV Program. It authorized the issuance of 3,000 visas to principal applicants in fiscal year (FY) 2014 and allowed that any unissued visas from FY 2014 be allocated to FY 2015. It also established that the employment period must have commenced on or after October 7, 2001 and been completed on or before December 31, 2014 and that applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval no later than September 30, 2014.

8

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, Section 1219 of Division A, Title XII, Subtitle B of Public Law 113-66

This law included provisions for: consideration of a credible sworn statement depicting dangerous country conditions, together with official evidence of such country conditions from the U.S government, as a factor in a determination of whether an applicant has experienced or is experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of employment by the U.S. government; not more than one written appeal of a COM denial, within 120 days of receiving the denial letter; and representation during the application process, including at relevant interviews and examinations, by an attorney or other accredited representative.

9

The Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, Section 602(b) of Division F, Title VI, of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, (Public Law 111-8)

This law allowed up to 1,500 Afghan nationals who provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. government, while employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan after October 7, 2001, for not less than one year, and who have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment, to receive special immigrant visas (SIVs) annually through FY 2013, with the allocation of any unused visas from FY 2013 to FY 2014. The period of qualifying employment was later extended under subsequent legislation. See law above.

10

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110-161 of December 26, 2007)

This law initially made Afghan and Iraqi SIV holders eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for up to six (6) months from their date of admission or date of adjustment if applying domestically. The period of eligibility was later extended under subsequent legislation. See law below.

11 The Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (Public Law 111-8 of March 10, 2009) This law extended the period of eligibility of Afghan SIV holders for resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits to up to eight (8) months from their date of admission or date of adjustment if applying domestically. For Afghan SIV holders already in the U.S. to be eligible for uninterrupted benefits for an additional two (2) months beyond the original six months (6) allowed under previous law, you must have been admitted to the U.S. on or after September 10, 2008, or if applying domestically, have a date of adjustment of September 10, 2008 or later.

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