For our Iraqi readers who are interested in the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for contractors working with the US government, we want to make sure you have heard the latest: Congress extended the program for a short while longer, but the end of the program is in sight.
In this article we discuss the status of the SIV program and a different type of contractor right: your right to apply for an SIV if you are a contractor working for or on behalf of the US government who has experienced threats to your life because of that work.
SIV Program Update Summary
At the end of 2013, Congress extended the SIV program, but set parameters signaling the impending end. Of note, Congress set a deadline of September 30, 2014 for applying for Chief of Mission approval for the SIV (the first approval phase). If you miss this deadline, you cannot apply for the SIV.
Equally importantly, Congress limited the number of visas that will be issued to 2,500. Once that number is reached, no more visas will be issued regardless of when you applied for the SIV. What this means to you is if the visas are used up before the September 30, 2014 application deadline, the program ends and you cannot apply.
The good news, however, is Congress did not set a deadline for issuing the visas. Visas may be gone in six months or a year, or they may be used up slowly and many may be available even after a year or two years. No one knows how quickly or slowly the visas will be used. What this means to you is if your SIV case has already been filed by September 30, 2014, and visas remain available, you may still be eligible for approval. This news is particularly of interest to Iraqis who have pending cases in “administrative processing” with the embassy and are awaiting final approval. Your cases are still alive and will remain eligible for a visa until all 2,500 visas are issued.
The other key factor affecting your eligibility for the program is the qualifying work period is set at a maximum date of September 30, 2013. This date means for you to qualify for the SIV, you must have worked for or on behalf of the US government for more than one year between March 20, 2003 and September 30, 2013. If you have not worked for or on behalf of the US government for a full year as of September 30, 2013, then you do not qualify for the SIV.
If you miss the opportunity to apply for the SIV, or do not qualify for it, you have other options. In particular, the U.S. refugee program through IOM remains available to Iraqis.
US Embassy Announcement on the SIV Program Extension
Below is the announcement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad regarding the extension. For more information about the extension and the eligibility criteria for the program, click here: http://iraq.usembassy.gov/siv-special.html
The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program benefiting individuals who have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government has been extended through passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2014.
The NDAA authorizes the issuance of 2,500 immigrant visas after January 1, 2014 to qualified principal applicants.
The NDAA does not include a date by which these visas must be issued, so consular officers have the authority to issue visas under this program until all 2,500 numbers have been used worldwide. The Iraqi SIV program will end after all visas have been issued.
Under this legislation, the one-year period during which principal applicants must have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq begins on or after March 20, 2003, and ends on or before September 30, 2013.The legislation includes a requirement that the principal applicant must apply for Chief of Mission approval no later than September 30, 2014.
Those applicants with cases pending do not need to re-file. If your petition has been approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), we encourage you to provide all requested documents to the National Visa Center (NVC) immediately so that your visa interview can be scheduled promptly.
Derivative family members (i.e., spouses, children) of principal applicants who were issued SIVs prior to December 31, 2013 can still be issued after December 31, 2013.
Applicants are advised to check their email accounts and consult our website (http://iraq.usembassy.gov/) regularly for the most recent information regarding the SIV program.
The separate U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis remains an option, as the eligibility criteria are very similar to those of the SIV program. For more information on USRAP, please visit http://iraq.usembassy.gov/refugeesidpaffairs.html.
If you are an Iraqi who has worked as a contractor directly to the US government, or as a subcontractor to a prime contractor of the US government, you may be eligible for the SIV program.
The key eligibility criteria includes:
- The applicant must be a national of Iraq.
- The applicant must have been employed by, or on behalf of the US Government in Iraq, on or after March 20, 2003, for at least one year before September 30, 2013 (in other words, between March 20, 2003 and September 30, 2013).
- The applicant must have provided faithful and valuable service to the US Government. This service must be documented in a letter of recommendation from the employee’s supervisor.
- The applicant must have experience or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of his/her employment by the US Government.
If you meet the above eligibility criteria and are interested in immigrating to the United States, you should consult with a competent attorney about the SIV and other visa options available to contractors.
Attorney-Author Vandaveer has successfully represented numerous Iraqi contractors in their pursuit of an SIV based on their work with the US government. After receiving their green cards, some chose to continue working as contractors or subcontractors with the US government from their new home in the United States. If you want to know whether you qualify for the SIV program or have other questions about your rights as a contractor for the US government, please contact our office at email@example.com or call 202-340-1215.