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Congress Extends Special Immigrant Visa Program for Iraqis

Congress has extended, and President Barack Obama has signed, legislation (H.R. 3233) extending the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Iraqi nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government. The President signed the legislation on October 4, 2013.

The law extends the authority of the Department of State (DOS) to issue SIVs to Iraqi nationals under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 until December 31, 2013. Visas may be issued to principal applicants under this program until that date. Approved visas are not affected by the end of the program.

The SIV program that has been extended covers Iraqi nationals who, between March 20, 2003, and September 30, 2013, were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for a period of at least one year. The program had expired with respect to principal applicants on September 30, 2013, but has now been extended. The extension permits USCIS to approve petitions or applications for visas or adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence in any eligible Iraqi SIV case that were pending with USCIS or with DOS when the program expired on September 30, 2013. USCIS may also approve an additional 2,000 cases as long as the initial applications to the DOS Chief of Mission in Iraq are made by December 31, 2013.

Also, DOS's authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas to Afghan nationals expires on September 30, 2014. DOS said it welcomes any actions by Congress to extend the Afghan SIV program and to further extend the Iraqi SIV program. "Across the U.S. government, every effort is being made to ensure qualified applicants are processed in a timely fashion before the Iraqi and Afghan programs' scheduled end dates," DOS said. It is unclear how the government shutdown may be affecting processing.

The authority to grant derivative SIV status to spouses and children of principal Iraqi SIVs did not sunset on September 30, 2013, and is not numerically capped.

USCIS ANNOUNCEMENT

DEPARTMENT OF STATE'S ANNOUNCEMENT

Information on a separate extension for translators/interpreters in Iraq or Afghanistan who worked with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission authority is available HERE.

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