The SQ Visa is a component of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program designed for Afghan and Iraqi individuals who served on behalf of the United States government or the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). It was first instituted in 2008 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which granted the authority to issue visas to eligible candidates, known as principals.
Section 1244 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 provided the authorization for the annual issuance of a maximum of 5,000 Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) until the fiscal year (FY) 2013 for Iraqi nationals engaged in employment with or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq, contingent upon specific criteria. Subsequent legislative measures extended the program’s duration, initially until December 31, 2013, and later with further extensions, effective from January 1, 2014.
Applicants for this program must have met all of the following requirements:
✓ One must be a national of Iraq; and
✓ He must have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq on or after March 20, 2003 and prior to September 30, 2013, for a period of one year or more; and
✓ He must have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. Government, which is documented in a letter of recommendation from his supervisor; and
✓ One must have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of his employment by the U.S. government.
SQ Visa Fees
Under this particular program, there is no immigrant visa application fee. However, the individual is required to pay all costs associated with the medical examination.
As of January 1, 2014, 2,500 visas may be issued to principal applicants under this program, and the program will end when all visas have been issued. The deadline to apply for Chief of Mission approval, the first step in the SIV application process, was September 30, 2014. Applications submitted after this date cannot be accepted or processed.
Although applications are no longer possible for the Iraqi SIV program, one may be eligible for resettlement in the United States with the family under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).
✓ If the individual has previously received a Chief of Mission Approval letter, they may submit a petition to USCIS.
✓ The petition submission should include a completed Form I-360 with an original signature, a copy of their national identification or passport (with certified English translation if not in English), a copy of the letter of recommendation previously sent for Chief of Mission Approval, a copy of the Chief of Mission approval, and, if currently in the United States, a copy of both sides of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.
✓ Once USCIS approves the petition, the case will be transferred to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) for pre-processing.
✓ After receiving the NVC Welcome Letter, the individual and each qualified family member immigrating with them must complete Form DS-260, the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration.
✓ The individual and their family members must also gather the civil documents required to support their visa application.
✓ All required documents should be scanned and sent via email to NVCSIV@state.gov, with the email subject line containing the case number provided in the Welcome Letter.
✓ Upon submitting the application, an automatic response confirming receipt will be received, and it may take up to eight weeks for the NVC to review the application.
Applicants who have their Chief of Mission (COM) applications denied will be sent an email explaining the reasons for denial. They have the option to file one appeal within 120 days of receiving the denial email. The appeal should request the reopening of the denied COM application and may include additional information, clarification of existing details, or an explanation of any unfavorable information mentioned in the denial letter.
The SQ Visa program, a vital component of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)
initiative, was established to provide refuge and protection to Iraqi nationals who faithfully served the United States government in Iraq between 2003 and 2013. This program offered a lifeline to those facing ongoing threats due to their service.