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

Iraqi SIV Program Extended

As of January 1, 2014, 2,500 visas may be issued to principal applicants under this program, and the program will end when all visas have been issued.

The deadline to apply for Chief of Mission approval, the first step in the SIV application process, was September 30, 2014.

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Important Notice: Litigation Matter

NOTICE ON LITIGATION MATTER: Afghan and Iraqi Allies Under Serious Threat Because of Their Faithful Service to the United States, on Their Own and on Behalf of Others Similarly Situated, et al. v. Blinken, et al. No. 18-cv-01388-TSC (D.D.C.) and No. 20-5251 (D.C. Cir.).

Plaintiffs (collectively a group of anonymous Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigration Visa (“SIV”) applicants) filed a class complaint against Defendants Antony J. Blinken, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of State, et al., in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) and Mandamus Act.  Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants have unreasonably delayed the adjudication of SIV applications submitted by certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals under the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007 (“RCIA”) and the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 (“AAPA”).  Defendants deny many of these allegations.

On September 20, 2019, the district court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction motion, granted Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, in part, and declared Defendants’ delays in the processing and adjudication of the SIV applications to be unreasonable under the APA in light of AAPA § 602(b)(4) and RCIA § 1242(c)(1).  On February 5, 2020, the district court certified a class that consists of all people (1) who applied for an Afghan or Iraqi SIV by submitting an application for Chief of Mission (“COM”) approval and (2) whose applications have been awaiting government action for longer than nine months. On June 14, 2020, the district court adopted a Joint Adjudication Plan that establishes a performance standard for each of the steps in the SIV application process and requires the Government to submit quarterly performance reports to the court.

Class members covered by the Joint Adjudication Plan are all people who applied for an Afghan or Iraqi SIV pursuant to the AAPA, and RCIA, by submitting an application for COM approval, and whose applications have been awaiting government action for longer than 9 months, as of May 21, 2020, the date of the submission of the Joint Adjudication plan.  The following parameters are used to identify class members: individuals who—

(1)    submitted COM applications to the National Visa Center (“NVC”) prior to August 21, 2019, and whose COM applications are pending, either on original review or on appeal, or approved;

(2)    submitted COM applications to the NVC prior to August 21, 2019, and whose COM applications were denied after January 22, 2020, [i.e., case received date is earlier than August 21, 2019 AND (not approved/denial date) is later than January 22, 2020], and are still within the statutorily allotted 120-day time period for appealing the denial;

(3)    submitted I-360 petitions that are pending or were issued a notice of approval [i.e., (I-360 Filing Date) is earlier than May 21, 2020]; or

(4)    are pre- or post- visa application interview [i.e., who received a letter informing them that NVC has received their approved SIV petition earlier than May 21, 2020], including those refused under INA section 221(g) for administrative processing.

Overview

Section 1244 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, authorized the issuance of up to 5,000 Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) annually through fiscal year (FY) 2013 to Iraqi nationals who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq and who meet certain requirements. Subsequent legislation extended this program from October 1 until December 31, 2013. This program was again extended through legislation effective January 1, 2014. The SIV process is available to Iraqi employees and contractors who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq on or after March 20, 2003 and prior to September 30, 2013, for a period of one year or more, and who have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment. For more information about the relevant U.S. law, see References - U.S. Laws, number 1.

In addition to the information on this website, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides information on Form I-360 petitions for this program.

Applicants for this program must have met all of the following requirements:

  • You must be a national of Iraq; and

  • You must have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq on or after March 20, 2003 and prior to September 30, 2013, for a period of one year or more; and

  • You must have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. Government, which is documented in a letter of recommendation from your supervisor; and

  • You must have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of your employment by the U.S. government.

The deadline to apply for Chief of Mission approval, the first step in the SIV application process, was September 30, 2014. Applications submitted after this date cannot be accepted or processed.

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 our page on Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters.

Although applications are no longer possible for the Iraqi SIV program, you may be eligible for resettlement in the United States with your family under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). For more information on the USRAP, please visit http://iq.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/baghdad/sections-offices/refugee-idp-affairs/.

If you have previously received a Chief of Mission Approval letter, then continue to Step 1: Submit Petition.

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 your denied COM application be reopened and you should provide additional information pertinent to your application, clarify existing information in your original application, or explaining any unfavorable information contained in the letter of denial.

Step 1 - Submit Petition

If you have received your Chief of Mission Approval, you must submit the following package of documents directly to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (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, nationality certificate (shahadat jensiyah), or national identification card showing that you are a national of Iraq, along with a certified English translation, if the document is not in English.
  • 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 Chief of Mission approval
  • 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.

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

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

To learn more about USCIS and to access forms and instructions, please click here.

STEP 2 - NVC Processing

After USCIS approves your petition, they will transfer your case to the Department of State's National Visa Center (NVC) for pre-processing. The first step in this processing is the creation of your case in our system. Once this is complete, we will send you a Welcome Letter by e-mail. With the information in this letter, you can log in to our Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to complete your Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (Form DS-260) and submit your supporting documents.

Once you submit forms and supporting documents to NVC, we will review your case to ensure you provided all the documentation required to schedule the immigrant visa interview. Interviews are based on the availability of appointments offered at the Embassy/Consulate.

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

Important Notice: Termination of Registration:

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 203(g) provides that the “Secretary of State shall terminate the registration (petition) of any alien who fails to apply for an immigrant visa within one year” of notice of visa availability. The petition may be reinstated if, within two years of notice of visa availability, the alien establishes that the “failure to apply was for reasons beyond the alien’s control.” Therefore, if you do not respond to notices from NVC within one year you risk termination of your petition under this section of law and would lose the benefits of that petition, such as your priority date.

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 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receipt number, full name, and date of birth. Customer Service Representatives at NVC are available from 7:30 a.m. to midnight (EST).

Back to Step 1

STEP 3 - Complete Online Visa Application (DS-260)

After receiving your NVC Welcome Letter, you and each qualified family member immigrating with you must complete the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (Form DS-260). You may wish to preview a sample DS-260 (PDF - 13.9 MB) before beginning.

To complete your Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, log into your case in CEAC and click the ‘START NOW’ under IV Application on your summary page.

Submitting Form DS-260 does not formally execute a visa application. The visa application is not formally made until the visa applicant(s) is interviewed by a U.S. consular officer.

After submitting Form DS-260 online, you must print the confirmation page and bring it to your interview. You can print this from CEAC any time after you complete your DS-260 application.

Back to Step 2

Step 4 - Collect Documents

After you complete your DS-260(s), you and each family member immigrating with you MUST collect the civil documents required to support your visa application.

Your civil documents MUST be issued by the official issuing authority in your country. Please refer to the Document Finder to learn about the civil document requirements for each country.

Please note that all documents not written in English, or in the official language of the country from which you are applying, must be accompanied by certified translations. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator stating that:

  • The translation is accurate, and

  • The translator is competent to translate.

Important Notice on Missing Documents: If a required document is unavailable per the country-specific guidelines, you do not need to scan the document into your CEAC. However, if you cannot obtain a required document for another reason, you must submit a detailed written explanation to NVC when you scan your other documents. During your visa interview, the consular officer will determine whether you must obtain the missing document before a visa can be issued. As a general rule, any document that is listed as “available” on the country-specific guidelines must be reviewed by a consular officer. Failure to obtain all required documents will delay your case.

  • A copy of the biodata page from the passport of each applicant. You should obtain an A or G series Iraqi passport because only A or G series passports are valid for travel to the United States.

  • Family Book (Copy of Entry 1957) and scanned copies of a birth certificate for each applicant and any other civil documents showing the relationship between you and your spouse and/or minor children (e.g., marriage and divorce certificates, adoption decrees, etc.). If no birth certificate is available, the Iraqi national identity card (bataqa shaksiya) may be used instead of a birth certificate;

  • Police certificate from Iraq if you have lived in Iraq for at least six months since reaching age 16. If you have lived in a different country for more than 12 months since reaching age 16, then you need to 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 - 364 KB). Please refer to our Frequently Asked Questions for more information resettlement benefits;

  • A completed DS-0234, Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (PDF - 312 KB) for each family member immigrating with you.

Back to Step 3

Step 5 - Scan Collected Documents

Once you have collected all the necessary documents, you must scan and save them.

In order to scan your documents, you will need access to a computer and scanner or a smartphone with an internet connection. Note: If you choose to use a public computer, be sure to delete your scanned documents once you have finished uploading them.

In order to ensure your case does not experience delays in processing, follow these guidelines when scanning your documents:

Requirements:

Single File Size and Type

Acceptable file types include .pdf (preferred) .jpg, and .jpeg

Each individual file (scanned document) must be no larger than 4 MB (megabytes).

Scan your multiple page documents, such as your letter of recommendation, as one file. If the document size is more than 2 MB, compress the file.

“Zipped” files, modifiable PDFs, or password-protected files will not be accepted.

Image Quality

Your scans must:

Include the front and back side of any document that has stamps, seals, or writing on the back.

image-step-8-onesidevsbothsides

Include a certified translation of your tazkera with your original (i.e. foreign language) document in a single file.

Be clear, easily seen and read, and no parts of the document are cut off.

image-step-8-blurry-v-clear

Oriented so it can be read across the screen without the need to rotate the document.

image-step-8-rightside-up-orientation

Most scanning programs offer a preview function so you can make sure the document is easily read. If you cannot read the scanned document, re-scan it at a higher resolution. Keep in mind this means the saved file will be larger and you may need to compress the file before you upload it.

Compressing a File

Compression means saving your document in a smaller file size. This not only allows the file to take up less space on your hard drive but also means it can be uploaded or e-mailed much faster. However, not all file types are easily compressed. Most computer operating systems include an option to compress a file. This option is often found under “File” or “Save,” or appears when you right-click on a file name in a navigation screen. Look on the “Help” tool in your computer operating system for more information on what is available to you.

There is also third-party compression software available, both at no cost and for purchase. Please remember, the Department of State cannot accept files that have been “zipped.”

Step 6 - Submit Documents

After you have scanned all of the required documents, attach each scan to an email and send it to NVCSIV@state.gov. The email’s subject line must contain the case number provided on your Welcome Letter.

When you submit your application, you will receive an automatic response confirming the receipt. Please allow up to eight (8) weeks for your application to be reviewed by the National Visa Center (NVC).

Once NVC review your case, you will receive an email stating one of the following:

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Corrections Required

If NVC determines you did not submit the correct forms and/or documents, you will receive a notification requesting additional information and/or corrections to your documents. When you receive this email, follow the instructions to provide additional information or to correct documents. Once you have followed the instructions, you will need to reply to the email with the new documents to NVCSIV@state.gov. Do not change the subject line of the email.

Please remember to follow the scanning requirements in Step 9 for your corrections.

Important Notice on Missing Documents: If after reviewing the FAQs and you are unable to provide the NVC with the missing information requested, you must submit a detailed written explanation why to the NVC. The Kabul Chief of Mission Committee and Chief of Mission designee will review your case.

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Documentarily Complete

If NVC determines you have submitted the required immigrant visa application and supporting documents to NVC, you will receive an email that your case is documentarily complete and NVC will work with the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate to schedule an appointment for you. NVC cannot predict when your case will be scheduled for an interview.

The U.S. Embassy or Consulate General tells NVC what dates they are holding interviews, and NVC fills these appointments in a first-in, first-out manner.

Please note: As of January 1, 2020, all consular services at U.S. Embassy Baghdad are suspended due to an attack on our facility.   You may therefore have to schedule your interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate with immigrant visa processing capabilities outside of Iraq.

Step 7 - Interview Steps

After the National Visa Center (NVC) schedules your visa interview appointment, they will send you an email noting the appointment date and time.  After you receive an interview Appointment Letter from NVC, you must take the following steps BEFORE the interview date.

To continue to prepare yourself for your interview follow Step 10: Prepare for Interview.

Once you have completed your preparations for your interview continue on to Step 11: Applicant Interview and Step 12: After the Interview.

Back to Step 6

 

Law:

Information about the Law:

1

Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, Public Law 117-31

This law, enacted July 30, 2021, amended Section 1244(b)(3) of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007 (8 U.S.C. 1157 note) to extend eligibility for a special immigrant visa to surviving spouses and children of Iraqi principal applicants who submitted an application to the Chief of Mission, subject to employment requirements at the time the principal applicant first submitted the application. 

2

Section 1244 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, as amended by section 1218 of Public Law 113-66

This law extended the Iraqi SIV Program beyond January 1, 2014 but limited the total number of SIVs that could be issued after this date to2,500 principal applicants. It also extended the deadline to apply for Chief of Mission approval to September 30, 2014. This law also introduced the following provisions, among others: 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 the ongoing serious threat determination; 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.

3

Section 1244 of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, as amended by section 1 of Public Law 113-42

This law extended the Iraqi SIV Program until December 31, 2013. During this period of extension, there was authorization for the issuance of visas in the amount of the total number of applications for SIV status pending as of September 30, 2013 plus an additional 2,000 visas. It also established that the one-year employment period must have commenced on or after March 20, 2003 and been completed on or before September 30, 2013.  The law also established a December 31, 2013 deadline to apply for Chief of Mission approval.

4

Section 1244 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110-181)

This law established the Iraqi special immigrant visa (SIV) program, which allocated 5,000 SIVs per year through fiscal year 2012 to Iraqi nationals employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq, who provided faithful and valuable service for a period of not less than one year starting on or after March 20, 2003, and who experienced an ongoing serious threat as a result of their employment.  The law permitted unused SIVs to be carried forward into the next fiscal year.  Up to 5,000 SIVs unused in FY 2012 could be issued in FY 2013.   The law also made holders of such visas eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted to the United States under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Iraqi SIV holders can receive these benefits for up to eight (8) months from their date of admission to the United States.

Quarterly Reports on Status of Iraqi Program

2022

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

 

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