The U.S. Armed Forces have relied on the work of translators in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past couple of decades. Translators have played a critical role in helping the military perform its duties and interact with the population and governments of both countries. Unfortunately, some Iraqi and Afghani nationals who have worked as translators for the U.S. have also been targeted by others within their countries. As a result, the U.S. government has established a special immigrant visa (SIV) program for translators from Afghanistan or Iraq who meet the qualifications.
Qualifications for special immigrant visas as translators
While there are various different SIV programs, the one for translators is particular to nationals of those two countries. To qualify, a translator must:
- Be a national of Afghanistan or Iraq
- Have a minimum of 12 months of experience as an interpreter or translator with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission (COM) authority at U.S. Embassy Kabul or U.S. Embassy Baghdad
- Have received a favorable recommendation from an officer in the unit the interpreter or translator provided services for
Applying for a special immigrant visa
Qualifying translators or interpreters can apply for a SIV by submitting Form I-360 to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services Center in Nebraska. Together with the petition, the translator must also submit a copy of his or her passport or birth certificate showing Iraq or Afghan citizenship translated into English. The translator will need to submit proof that he or she worked for the chief of missions or the U.S. Armed Forces for at least 12 months and completed and passed a background check. Finally, he or she will need to submit a written recommendation from an officer in the unit. The fee that must be submitted with the petition is $375.
The government limits the number of special immigrant visas it issues each fiscal year to translators or interpreters to 50. To increase the chances of a petition’s approval, a translator may want to work with an experienced immigration lawyer. An immigration law attorney may help someone avoid making critical errors that could result in a denial.