Special Immigrant Visas
What is a “Special Immigrant”?
“Special Immigrant” is a visa category listed under the 4th type of Employment-based visa (EB-4). Special Immigrants may be entitled to certain government benefits, and the quota limits may be different than in other types of visa categories. Also, children and spouses of special immigrants are often granted lawful permanent resident status (LPR) or derivative citizenship at the same time as the special immigrant parent.
There are various sub-categories for special immigrants, and not all applicants may qualify for special immigrant visas. Special immigrant visas, or “SIV’s” are reserved for:
- Persons subject to limitations under the EB-4 category;
- Persons who have lost citizenship through marriage or through service in foreign armed forces;
- Religious ministers and other religious workers;
- Certain employees/former employees for the U.S. government working abroad;
- Immigrants subject to the Panama Canal Act;
- Some foreign medical school graduates and professionals;
- Some employees of international organizations who are retired;
- Certain court dependents (juveniles); and
- Certain qualifying aliens serving in U.S. Armed Forces
Each of these categories is subject to different requirements and eligibility factors. For example, a religious working filing for an SIV will have to provide extensive documentation of their religious work and the nature of the religious organization they belong to.
Are Special Immigrants Entitled to any Benefits?
Many non-citizens choose to file as special immigrants because the category often entitles them to government assistance and benefits such as:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Food Assistance Programs (FAP)
- State-funded “resettlement” programs
- Other entitlement programs
Again, eligibility for such programs will depend on the background of each individual applicant and the sub-category of the application. Some benefits are limited to a certain time frame after the person is granted the visa (i.e., the benefits will expire after a certain amount of time).
Can Persons Under Refugee Status Adjust to SIV?
Many applicants who would qualify for a special immigrant visa might also qualify for refugee status. However, a non-citizen who has been granted refugee status cannot adjust their status from asylum or refugee to SIV. Instead, refugees may apply for LPR status after they have spent one year in the U.S. after their refugee admission.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Obtaining a Special Immigrant Visa?
Special immigrant visas typically have more conditions and requirements than other visa categories due to the benefits associated with them. You may wish to contact a lawyer if you or a loved one needs assistance with special immigrant concerns. Special immigrants often need to travel to the U.S. with their children or spouses, which can make the process more complex. An experienced lawyer will be able to assist you with the filing requirements and can provide counseling during immigration proceedings.
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Last Modified: 03-14-2012 03:01 PM PDT
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