Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa Program: Potential Termination on September 30, 2013

— By Domani Spero 

Section 1244 of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, authorizes the issuance of up to 5,000 Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) annually through fiscal year (FY) 2012 to Iraqi nationals who have worked for or on behalf of the U.S. Government in Iraq and who meet certain requirements. The Act opens the SIV process to Iraqi employees and contractors who have been employed by or on behalf of the U.S. Government in Iraq on or after March 20, 2003, for a period of one year or more, and who have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment.

The recent OIG inspection report on the US Embassy in Baghdad and it constituent posts indicate that the impending termination of Iraqi SIVs at the end of September this year has not been publicized because they (embassy, CA and PRM bureaus) “expect the program to be extended.”

Excerpt from the report below:

Applications for the Iraqi special immigrant visa program make up approximately 65 percent of immigrant visa cases. The special immigrant visa program, designed for employees and former employees of the U.S. Government in Iraq with at least 1 year of service, was instituted by law in 2008 and will terminate at the end of FY 2013 unless Congress extends the program. Embassy Baghdad, the Bureau of Consular Affairs, and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, each of which handles a portion of the program, have not publicized the imminent termination of the program because they expect the program to be extended. The proposed legislation would extend the application deadline until the end of FY 2018 for applicants who began their employment with the U.S. Government before October 1, 2012. Announcement of the impending termination of the program to affected applicants will allow those individuals who may have qualifying U.S. Government employment to make an informed decision as to whether to apply before the program ends. The approximately 2,000 Iraqi special immigrant visa cases in the Washington pipeline for administrative processing may not be completed before the program’s termination.

Recommendation 18: Embassy Baghdad, in coordination with the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, should alert pending applicants about the potential termination of the Iraqi special immigrant visa program on September 30, 2013. (Action: Embassy Baghdad, in coordination with CA and PRM)

The immigrant visa unit has been holding thousands of Iraqi passports for special immigrant visa applicants and their immediate family members pending the results of administrative processing. Consular sections worldwide are advised not to retain travel documents for indefinite periods because those documents belong to the applicants, not to the U.S. Government. These families cannot leave the country because the consular section has their passports. In addition, if the embassy were to draw down or evacuate, the section would have to destroy these travel documents. Some of these passports have been held for several years.

Recommendation 19: Embassy Baghdad should return the Iraqi passports of special immigrant visa program applicants. (Action: Embassy Baghdad)

The full report is here.

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Filed under Consular Work, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Iraq, State Department, Visas

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