Special Immigrant Visas (SIV)

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DISCUSS YOUR SIV VISA NEEDS WITH SANSHA LAW OFFICE

SanSha Law Office helps our customers with all their immigration needs including helping Afghanistan and Iraqi Nationals who have served with our U.S Armed Forces and who are currently facing danger while they are still there. As the SIV process is quite long and confusing, you should not go at it on your own. If you are looking for assistance for family members who may be in a bad situation and you are trying to get them out of harm's way, let us help you navigate the process and help prepare the SIV application for your family members and relatives.   

What is a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)?

As the United States Military forces have withdrawn from Afghanistan, Afghan translators and others who were instrumental in aiding the U.S forces who were left behind are facing significant danger. The Importance of the SIV's to this population has become increasingly important. 

What is SIV's?

SIV's is a special class of visa that is available to individuals who have worked as translators, interpreters, journalists, and other key personnel including professionals who were employed by or on behalf of the United States Government in Afghanistan or Iraq or under Chief of Mission (COM) authority at U.S. Embassy Baghdad or U.S. Embassy Kabul. The folks who are eligible for these visas and their dependents can apply through one of two SIV programs. This is a special immigrant category that was designed to benefit or allies by providing a direct pathway to a green card. 

2 Afghanistan SIV Programs

There are two SIV programs available to these folks in Afghanistan. 

  1. SI Visa category is designed specifically for translators or interpreters who worked directly with the U.S Military forces. 
  2. SQ Visa  category is available to any other Afghan National who was employed by or on behalf of the United States government in the region. 

Both of these SIV programs were created by Congress and are managed by the U.S State of Department.

There is a set number of SIV's available to people in Afghanistan that is determined by a Congressional statute. For the SI visa category, Section 1059 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) only allots 50 visa's annually for “SI” translators/interpreters. For the SQ visa category, amendments are made regularly by Congress to Section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 which increased the number of visas by 4,000. This number of SIV is now totally 26,500 visas as per The Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2021. Currently, there are three different pieces of legislation, that have been introduced to increase the number by additional 4,000, 8,000, and 20,000 visas.  Both the SI and SQ visa categories have similar requirements for eligibility and an extensive application process, which are described below.

Eligibility Requirements

Only Nationals of Afghans are eligible to apply who has the following requirements:

  • A person who has worked directly with the U.S Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission (COM) authority as a translator or interpreter for a period of at least 12 months (SI category), or
  • A person who has been an employee of the U.S government or Internation Security Assitance Force (ISAF) for at least 2 years between 2001 and 2021 (SQ category). 

This is in addition to the candidate who must obtain a favorable written recommendation from a General or Flag Officer in the chain of command of the U.S Armed Forces unit that was supported by the individual or from the COM at the U.S Embassy in Kabul. 

Approximately 16,000 and 18,000 individuals along with 45,000 immediate family members from Afghanistan have received SIVs since 2009 when these programs were originally created. 

What and how long is the Process?

In 2013, an amendment to the Afghan Allies Protection Act required that the Department of State's review of an SIV application be completed within 9 months, from the time of submission to the final notice of approval. However, the timing of how long the process has taken has varied over time. It is believed that in some instances it can take an average of 658 days while others have stated that it can take up to 996 days to process an SIV application. If you add the time an individual who is applying, including collecting the required documents, filling out the application, and visa interviews, it can take anywhere between 2.5 years to 3.5 years for the process to complete. 

There is a lot of paperwork involved in collecting the documentation and this can be divided into 3 sections:

  1. Initial Petition Documents
  2. Collecting Additional Family Records
  3. Scheduling a Visa Interview

In the case of the SQ Visa category, there is an additional step involved which is applying for Chief of Mission approval with the Department of State. Once that is complete, it will follow similar steps as the SI visa category. 

Required SIV Packet of Initial Petition to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will include:

  • Form I-360
  • Copy of Applicant's passport
  • Proof of his or her work as a translator or employee.
  • Proof of screening and background checks by U.S Armed Forces or the COM
  • A letter of recommendation giving approval from the COM or his or her designee at the embassy, or a General or Flag Officer in the chain of command of the Armed Forces unit aided by the applicant. 

Once the packet has been submitted to the USCIS, the applicant will communicate via email with the National Visa Center (NVC) to deliver additional family records. These will include:

  •  Copies of the biographical information pages from the passports of the applicants and family members who will be covered by the SIV
  • Copies of birth certificates and marriage certificates.
  • Official forms like DS-260
  • If any required documents are not in English, the applicant will need to include a certified English translation of those documents.

The NVC will notify the applicant once USCIS has approved the initial petition and help the applicant schedule a visa interview. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has suspended operations on August 31, 2021.  Consular services, including visa services, remain available outside Afghanistan. Once the NVC has notified the applicant, the applicant can determine which closeby country he may wish to schedule an interview with. If for some reason, the applicant needs to change host country for the interview. The applicant may request their case to be transferred to another immigrant visa-issuing post. To request a case transfer, the applicant will need to contact the post where the applicant's case is currently scheduled for an interview.

As the application process is quite lengthy in nature, it could be a while before the interview is scheduled. WIth Covid-19 precautions and the suspension of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has made the wait times longer since early 2020. It has delayed or even in some cases stopped in-person visa proceedings. 

The interviews at the Embassy of your choosing are conducted in English and the applicants and their accompanying family members are fingerprinted. All family members will need to be present along with all the original records that were submitted to NVC along with recent photographs for identification purposes. The SIV applicant will also need to provide written descriptions of their qualifying positions for the U.S government. If they are still employed in qualifying positions at the time of the interview, the applicant should be ready to give a written statement of his or her intent to resign and emigrate upon visa approval.

Applicants sometimes receive their SIV on the day of their interviews but in some cases, it can take longer. Some SI visas can take additional time for administrative processing after the interview. If any issues arise out of the visa application, the consular's office will communicate to the applicant. If and when the SIV is finally approved and granted, the applicant will receive a packet that he will need to bring to the U.S to present to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when the applicant arrives. The SIV recipient's official Green Cards are mailed to them after they are in the United States. 

How We Can Help You

SanSha Law Office can help you and your family members who are still in Afghanistan who meet the SIV requirements as well as their family members. We offer full representation throughout the SIV process. We can help file, analyze, research, manage and monitor the entire process. For additional information please call us at (469) 777-6161 for your initial consultation, or if you prefer to use the Contact Us form, we will be more than happy to follow up with you. You can also click on the schedule An Appointment link on the page to schedule a meeting with us based on your convenience

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