The “special immigrant” category in the Immigration and Nationality Act pertains to immigrants who are seeking lawful entry into the United States, although not related to the familial/marital, high skilled worker, or refugee/asylee applications that is most seen by the USCIS. Instead, the Special Immigrant category breaks down further for individuals who fit the following descriptions:  

  • International organization employees or derivative family members (NATO)
  • Religious workers
  • Individuals who have worked with the U.S. Armed Forces in some capacity that was meant to advance the United States security and military operations during wartime efforts

For the purpose of this briefing, we will discuss this latter category of special immigrants— individuals who have worked with the U.S. Armed Forces in some capacity. Specifically, there is a path to an immigrant visa and eligibility for a green card for both Afghani and Iraqi nationals who were employed by the U.S. government as interpreters, translators, and other roles to assist in the war effort in the early 2000s. Some of these individuals have faced severe threats later on in their lives due to the nature of their alliance with the United States, and as a result, Congress created new special immigrant categories so these individuals could secure a U.S. visa if needed.

The three categories of aids include the following:

  • Nationals who served as a translator to the U.S. military
  • Nationals who became employed via another U.S. government agency during wartime
  • Those who were employed in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)

Forms and Documents Needed

In order to secure an immigrant visa under this category (of which there are 50 available annually) and be eligible for an adjustment of status, the following needs to happen: 

1.     The principal applicant will need to fill out the USCIS I-360 Form, the Petition for Special Immigrant.

2.     You will also need documentation that the period you were working with the U.S. Armed Forces was for a period of at least 12 months, in addition to passports verifying nationality as an Iraqi/Afghani.

3.     Payment, $435.

4.     Recommendation letter from a U.S. chain of command officer certifying that you indeed provided translation and/or other services as stated.

Once an applicant has been inspected and admitted, or inspected and paroled in the United States with an approved I-360 form, which qualifies them as the Special Immigrant, they can begin the I-485 process. The applicant must remain in the United States during the entire adjudication process and they must also not be inadmissible based on the following grounds:

  • Health related
  • Crime Related
  • Security Related
  • Illegal Entrants and Immigration Violators
  • Documentation Requirements for Immigrants
  • Ineligibility for Citizenship
  • Aliens Previously Removed 

For more information on the bars to admissibility, please reference the INA Section 212(a).

Special Immigrant U.S. Armed Forces Immigration