Iraqi FAQ

General FAQs

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

May I apply for Chief of Mission (COM) approval?

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

Who is the Chief of Mission (COM)?

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

Filing FAQs

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

Resettlement Benefits FAQs

Am I eligible for Resettlement Benefits?

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?

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

How do I obtain a travel loan?

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

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

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

Interview FAQs

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 based on approval of my Chief of Mission (COM) application, which application should I pursue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

General FAQs

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

The total number of principal applicants who could receive SIV status under this program could not exceed 5,000 per year for fiscal years 2008 through 2012.  The unused amount from fiscal year 2012 was allocated toward fiscal year 2013. Subsequent legislation extended this 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 by principal applicants pending as of September 30, 2013 and for up to 2,000 additional visas for person who apply for status as principal applicants subsequent to that date. This program was again extended through legislation effective January 1, 2014 and authorizes the issuance of 2,500 visas to principal applicants. The program will end when all 2,500 visas have been issued. SIVs issued to a principal applicant's spouse and children do not count toward the numerical limit.

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

May I apply for Chief of Mission (COM) approval?

The deadline to apply for COM approval was September 30, 2014. Applications submitted after this date cannot be accepted or processed.

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/.

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.

Who is the Chief of Mission (COM)?

The Chief of Mission (COM) is the principal officer in charge of a diplomatic mission appointed by the President of the United States.

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

Spouses or children may, in some circumstances, still be eligible for a special immigrant visa if the COM application was submitted before the principal applicant’s death and the spouse and children were listed in that application as accompanying the principal applicant.

Filing FAQs:

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

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process each petition, even if the numerical limit of visas has been reached.

When your petition has been approved, it will be sent to the NVC.  If visas are available, the NVC will contact you to schedule the visa interview. If the authorized number of visas are no longer available, the NVC will hold the petition.

Resettlement Benefits FAQs:

Am I eligible for Resettlement Benefits?

Yes. Iraqi 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 - 364 KB) (signature required) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB) for each family member immigrating with you, included in the visa instruction packet, to National Visa Center (NVC) at NVCSIV@state.gov or the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) at SIV@wrapsnet.org 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.

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 the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) at SIV_OPE@IOM.int.

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

Your preferences will be taken into consideration when arranging your resettlement in the United States.

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 - 364 KB) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB) to the National Visa Center (NVC) or the Refugee Processing Center (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.

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 Reception and Placement (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.

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 - 364 KB), the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB), and of your visa, after it has been issued, to the National Visa Center (NVC) or the Refugee Processing Center (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.

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 them.


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.

Agency

Agency Website

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)

https://worldrelief.org

Interview FAQs:

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 based on approval of my Chief of Mission (COM) application, 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 U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s Office of Refugee and IDP Affairs 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.

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

Yes, your spouse, as well as your unmarried children under age 21, may accompany you to the United States or follow to join you in the United States. Any family members age 14 or over must also attend the visa interview. You must provide proof of the marriage relationship to your spouse and the parental relationship to your children. Your family members may not enter the U.S. before you.

You must bring your spouse and children age 14 or over with you to your visa interview for all other interviews outside of Afghanistan. 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, or have a child, after your SIV petition is approved but before you travel to the United States, your new spouse or child 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 or child should be added to the petition and an interview scheduled. If you marry a non-U.S. national after you have already traveled to the United States, you may file a family-based petition for your spouse.

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.

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.

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 may request your case be transferred to another immigrant visa issuing post. To request a case transfer, contact the post where your case is currently scheduled for interview.

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 SIV visa interview is successful, you will not receive your visa on the same day. All SIV cases require additional administrative processing after the interview.

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 has issued an SIV visa and the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) has referred your case to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for travel arrangements.