Special Immigrant Visa
Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) are a visa category which may be awarded to eligible Iraqi and Afghan translators or interpreters who worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission authority at U.S. Embassy Baghdad or U.S. Embassy Kabul.
These SIVs differ from two other programs that award visas to certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals and military personnel that worked directly for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan.
What Is the Special Immigrant SQ Visa?
SQ visas are Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) specifically for qualified Afghans who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan. This SIV program originally began in 2009 and allowed for 1,500 Afghan SQ visas to be granted to Afghans each year up until 2013. However, the program has since been extended by legislation.
Who Can Apply for the SQ Visa?
This program is available to Afghans who worked for/on behalf of the U.S. government as an employee or contractor for at least one year between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2014.
In addition, the Afghan employee must have or is currently experiencing an ongoing serious threat (or threats) as a result of their employment with the U.S. government. Unmarried minor children and spouses of Afghans that receive an Afghan SQ visa are allowed to also come to the United States along with the visa holder. The Afghan SQ visa holder and family will then receive special resettlement benefits after entering the U.S. and will receive Lawful Permanent Resident status.
For Afghan Nationals Who Worked for or on Behalf of the U.S. Government
The Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, as enacted on July 30, 2021, authorized 8,000 additional Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Afghan principal applicants, for a total of 34,500 visas allocated since December 19, 2014.
The Department of State’s authority to issue 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.
For Iraqi Nationals Who Worked for or on Behalf of the U.S. Government
Your may apply for the Special Immigrant Visa/SQ Visa if you are a national of Iraq or Afghanistan, have worked directly with the US Armed Forces or under COM authority as a translator or interpreter for a period of at least 12 months, and have obtained a favourable written recommendation from a General or Flag Officer in the chain of command of the US Armed Forces unit that was supported by you, as a translator or interpreter, or from the Chief of Mission from the embassy where you worked.
What Are the Requirements of the SQ Visa?
Applicants for this program must have met all of the following requirements:
- You must be a national of Iraq or Afghanistan; and
- You must have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan 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.
How to Apply for the SQ Visa?
To apply for the SQ Visa, you must have an Afghan or Iraqi passport with an immigrant visa stamp noting that the individual has been classified under IV (Immigrant Visa) Category SI1 or SQ1 with a DHS stamp or notation on passport or I-94 showing date of admission.
What Are the SQ Visa Fees?
Under this particular program, there is no immigrant visa application fee. However, you are required to pay all costs associated with the medical examination.
How Long Is the SQ Visa Processing Time?
Even if an applicant has acted promptly in each of the applicant-controlled steps that precede the SIV application process, applications may be pending longer than nine months for completion of administrative processing.