Over 70,000 Afghans have fled Afghanistan and have been paroled into the United States since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s takeover. As evacuees settle in the United States, they have sought to formalize their immigration statuses. While many of those evacuees have sought asylum protection in the United States, others have pursued other forms of relief. One of those options is in the form of Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) status.
The SIV process can provide certain Afghan nationals with a path to obtaining lawful permanent residence provided that they meet the following baseline requirements:
The Applicant was employed in Afghanistan by or on behalf of the U.S. Government; or
The Applicant was employed in Afghanistan by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission, in a capacity that required the applicant to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF or to perform activities for the U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF.
If an applicant meets these baseline requirements, a three-step process must be completed in order to obtain lawful permanent residence. Unfortunately for the applicant, none of these steps can take place concurrently and an applicant must wait for each step to be approved before proceeding to the next step.
Step 1: Chief of Mission Approval
In order to seek permanent residence through the SIV process, an applicant must first seek Chief of Mission (COM) approval. Detailed instructions regarding obtaining COM approval can be found here but, in summary, applicants must provide the following documentation in order to receive COM approval:
Human Resources letter verifying employment for at least one year;
Letter of recommendation of U.S. citizen supervisor;
Copy of employment contract if employed by the U.S. government;
Form DS-157, Supplmental Non-Immigrant Visa Application;
Evidence of Afghan nationality;
Statement regarding threats received due to aforementioned employment;
Copy of employee identification badge (if available); and
Biographic data of the applicant.
After these items are compiled, they must be submitted to the Department of State for approval. With current processing delays, it is taking an average of 8-9 months for COM approval. If denied, an applicant has 120 days to file an appeal. Note that applicants must seek COM approval on or before December 31, 2023.
Step 2: Filing Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
Once Step 1 is approved, an SIV applicant is eligible for file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. Approval of Form I-360 is a necessary prerequisite for filing a green card application. USCIS notes that the items that must be filed with Form I-360 include:
Copy of applicant’s passport or tazkera as evidence of Afghan nationality;
Copy of the Letter of recommendation of U.S. citizen supervisor that was included in Step 1;
Copy of the COM Approval; and
Copy of Form I-94, if the applicant is physically present in the U.S.
Note that no filing fee is required for Form I-360. Once an applicant receives a conditional approval of Form I-360, they can then proceed with Step 3, filing for adjustment of status.
Step 3: Filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
The final step in the SIV process is filing for permanent residence. This is accomplished by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with USCIS.
Pursuant to recent USCIS guidance, applications for adjustment of status based on SIV do not require filing fees nor do they require fee waiver requests.
Approval of the Form I-485 completes the SIV process and the applicant is issued a lawful permanent resident card (green card).
SIV Applicants who are seeking lawful permanent residence need skilled legal representation to guide them through this complex process. The attorneys at The Law Offices of George K. Gomez, P.A. have a detailed understanding of the law—and the circumstances in which an SIV green card is most likely to be granted for our clients.
Contact the Immigration Lawyers at The Law Offices of George K. Gomez, P.A. today!
Serving Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties as well as providing nationwide representation, The Law Offices of George K. Gomez, P.A. is well versed in immigration law. If you need an immigration lawyer or just need more information on the immigration-related legal services we can offer, contact us at (305) 539-0991, or use our online contact form.