Category Archives: Refugees

Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program To End on December 31, 2013

– Domani Spero

We previously posted about Iraqi SIVs in September. (See Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program for Iraqi Nationals to End Sept 30, Or How to Save One Interpreter At a Time).  The Department of State’s authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Iraqi nationals under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 has now been extended until December 31, 2013.  The US Embassy in Iraq cautions that “No matter what stage of the process you are in, all selected and eligible applicants must obtain their visa by December 31, 2013. There is no guarantee that the SIV program authority will be extended; therefore, you are strongly encouraged to act quickly to ensure you have the best possible chance to complete your case by December 31, 2013.” US Mission Iraq has updated its information on the Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program with the following details:

  • Our authority to issue SIVs to principal applicants ends on December 31, 2013. We cannot issue SIVs to any principal applicants after this date.
  • Derivative family members (i.e., spouses, children) of principal applicants who were issued SIVs can still be issued SIVs after December 31, 2013.
  • Applicants are advised to check their email accounts and consult our website regularly for the most recent information regarding the SIV program.
  • Applicants whose cases are pending for additional documents are advised to send the required documents to our office immediately to the address listed in the instructions we provided to you.  Failure to do so may result in your visa not being issued before the December 31, 2013 deadline (principal applicants).
  • Applicants who have been scheduled for an interview are strongly encouraged to attend their appointment as scheduled.  Given the extremely high demand of appointments, we will be unable to reschedule your appointment, should you be unable to attend your interview.
  • The separate U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis remains in place and will continue to be available after December 31, 2013 regardless of whether the Iraqi SIV program ends at that time.  The Embassy encourages SIV applicants to seek out information about the USRAP as the eligibility criteria are very similar to those of the SIV program.  For more information on USRAP, please visit:http://iraq.usembassy.gov/refugeesidpaffairs.html.

Click here for more details including frequently asked questions.

Unless extended by Congress, the State Department’s authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghan nationals will also expire in September 2014.

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Filed under Congress, Consular Work, Foreign Affairs, Functional Bureaus, Iraq, Refugees, State Department, Visas, War

Iraqi Resettlement in the U.S. — It’s Harder Than You Think

The GAO has released a new report on Iraqi Refugees and Special Immigrant visa holders and the challenges they face in their resettlement in the US as well as in obtaining U.S. Government employment. Quick summary below from the report:

Between fiscal years 2006 and 2009, the United States admitted 34,470 Iraqi refugees under State’s Refugee Admissions Program. In addition, State issued 4,634 SIVs to Iraqis pursuant to two programs, established by Congress to help Iraqis who previously worked for the U.S. government in Iraq. Resettlement agencies, working under cooperative agreements with State, have resettled Iraqis throughout the United States but particularly in California and Michigan.

These agencies have found that Iraqis arrive in the United States with high levels of trauma, injury, and illness, which contribute to the challenges they face in resettling in a new country. In addition, entry-level jobs normally available to refugees are scarce and more competitive in the current economic downturn. Iraqi refugees generally have high levels of education, according to U.S. officials and representatives from the resettlement agencies. Nevertheless, Iraqis have struggled to find entry-level employment in the United States.

Iraqi refugees and SIV holders are eligible for resettlement assistance and public benefits upon arrival in the United States. State provides resettlement agencies $1,800 per person to cover basic housing, food, and assistance for accessing services during their first 30 days in the United States; however, support may continue for up to 90 days if basic needs have not been met. Refugees automatically receive these benefits; Iraqi SIV holders must elect to receive them within 10 days of receiving their visas. In addition, qualified Iraqi refugees and, as a result of December 2009 legislation, qualified SIV holders can receive certain assistance for up to 7 years through public benefits programs. Prior to December 19, 2009, Iraqi SIV holders’ eligibility for public benefits generally ceased after 8 months. Both groups can also receive up to 8 months of cash and medical assistance from HHS if they do not qualify for public benefits. In addition, HHS funds social services, including job preparation, English language classes, and assistance with job interviews, for which Iraqi refugees and SIV holders may be eligible for up to 5 years.

Iraqi refugees and SIV holders, including those who acted as interpreters and linguists for civilian agencies and military commands in Iraq, have limited opportunities for federal employment. Most federal positions in the United States require U.S. citizenship and background investigations; certain positions, including most positions related to Arabic or Iraq, also require security clearances, which noncitizens cannot obtain.
However, GAO did identify positions at DOD’s Defense Language Institute and State’s Foreign Service Institute open to qualified noncitizens. Finally, State and DOD have not established the temporary program intended to offer employment to Iraqi SIV holders under authority granted the agencies in fiscal year 2009 legislation. Although both agencies have positions requiring Arabic language skills, neither identified any unfilled needs that could be met by employing Iraqi SIV holders through this joint program.

Read the entire report below:


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Filed under Govt Reports/Documents, Iraq, Locally Employed Staff, Refugees

Video of the Week: Cameron Sinclair: The refugees of boom-and-bust

At TEDGlobal U, Cameron Sinclair shows the unreported cost of real estate megaprojects gone bust: thousands of migrant construction laborers left stranded and penniless. To his fellow architects, he says there is only one ethical response.

After training as an architect, Cameron Sinclair (then age 24) joined Kate Stohr to found Architecture for Humanity, a nonprofit that helps architects apply their skills to humanitarian efforts. Starting with just $700 and a simple web site in 1999, AFH has grown into an international hub for humanitarian design, offering innovative solutions to housing problems in all corners of the globe. (Video duration: 3:06)

Whether rebuilding earthquake-ravaged Bam in Iran, designing a soccer field doubling as an HIV/AIDS clinic in Africa, housing refugees on the Afghan border, or helping Katrina victims rebuild, Architecture for Humanity works by Sinclair’s mantra: “Design like you give a damn.” (Sinclair and Stohr cowrote a book by the same name, released in 2006.)

A regular contributor to the sustainability blog Worldchanging.com, Sinclair is now working on the Open Architecture Network, born from the wish he made when he accepted the 2006 TED Prize: to build a global, open-source network where architects, governments and NGOs can share and implement design plans to house the world.

“Cameron Sinclair is doing his best to save the world, one emergency shelter and mobile AIDS clinic at a time.” Washington Post

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From ted.com.

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Filed under Refugees, TED, Trends, Video of the Week

Officially In: Eric P. Schwartz to PRM

President Obama has announced his intent to nominate Eric P. Schwartz, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).

Eric P. Schwartz is Executive Director of the Connect U.S. Fund, a foundation/NGO initiative focused on foreign and international affairs, and Visiting Lecturer of Public and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Between 2005 and 2007, he served as UN Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, working to promote coordination, accountability to donors and beneficiaries, and best practices in the recovery effort. Prior to that, he served as lead expert on conflict prevention and reconstruction for the Congressionally mandated Task Force on United Nations Reform, and as a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Between 1993 and 2001, Schwartz served at the National Security Council, ultimately as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs. For eight years, he was the NSC official responsible for refugee issues, and managed Administration policy responses on the rescue of Kurdish refugees from Northern Iraq, the resettlement of Vietnamese boat people, and safe haven for Haitian refugees and Kosovars.

Prior to that, he served at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, where he was responsible for most of the Committee’s work on Asian refugee issues, including Vietnamese boat people, Laotian refugees and the U.S. immigration issues relating to the transfer of sovereignty in Hong Kong.


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Filed under Nominations, Political Appointees, Refugees, State Department

Officially In: Eric P. Schwartz to PRM

President Obama has announced his intent to nominate Eric P. Schwartz, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).

Eric P. Schwartz is Executive Director of the Connect U.S. Fund, a foundation/NGO initiative focused on foreign and international affairs, and Visiting Lecturer of Public and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Between 2005 and 2007, he served as UN Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, working to promote coordination, accountability to donors and beneficiaries, and best practices in the recovery effort. Prior to that, he served as lead expert on conflict prevention and reconstruction for the Congressionally mandated Task Force on United Nations Reform, and as a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Between 1993 and 2001, Schwartz served at the National Security Council, ultimately as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs. For eight years, he was the NSC official responsible for refugee issues, and managed Administration policy responses on the rescue of Kurdish refugees from Northern Iraq, the resettlement of Vietnamese boat people, and safe haven for Haitian refugees and Kosovars.

Prior to that, he served at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, where he was responsible for most of the Committee’s work on Asian refugee issues, including Vietnamese boat people, Laotian refugees and the U.S. immigration issues relating to the transfer of sovereignty in Hong Kong.


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Filed under Nominations, Political Appointees, Refugees, State Department

Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqis: Bag with Holes

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Filed under Consular Work, Iraq, Locally Employed Staff, Refugees, US Embassy Baghdad, Visas

The Promise of Freedom

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Filed under Iraq, Lessons, Refugees, TLP, Updates

World Refugee Day – June 20

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Filed under Nominations, People, Refugees, Trends