Skip to main content

Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background

A. Purpose

A special immigrant is an alien who may qualify for lawful permanent residence under certain provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Special immigrants are eligible to apply for lawful admission as a permanent resident or adjustment of status to permanent residence.

B. Background

The INA defines the term “special immigrant” to include various categories of aliens, such as religious workers, special immigrant juveniles, and employees and former employees of the U.S. government or others who have benefited or faithfully served the U.S. government abroad.[1] Congress also created additional special immigrant classifications through public laws not incorporated in the INA. Special immigrant classifications are subject to the numerical limitations on admissions set forth in the INA.[2] Certain special immigrant classifications are exempt from these numerical limits, to include: Iraqis employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government;[3] Afghans employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government;[4] and Iraqi and Afghan translators and interpreters.[5]

C. Scope

This Policy Manual (PM) Part addresses the following classes of special immigrants:

  • Religious workers;[6]

  • Panama Canal Zone employees;[7]

  • Certain physicians;[8]

  • Certain G-4 or NATO-6 employees and their family members;[9]

  • Members of the U.S. armed forces;[10]

  • Certain broadcasters;[11]

  • Certain Iraqi nationals;[12]

  • Certain Afghan nationals;[13] and

  • Certain Iraqi and Afghan translators and interpreters.[14]

Part H does not address the following classes of special immigrants:

  • An immigrant, lawfully admitted for permanent residence, who is returning from a temporary visit abroad;[15]

  • An immigrant who was a citizen of the United States who may apply for reaquisition of citizenship;[16]

  • Certain employees or retired employees of the U.S. government abroad;[17] and

  • Certain dependents of a juvenile court or immigrants otherwise under certain legal commitment or state custody orders.[18]

D. Legal Authorities

  • INA 101(a)(27) – Special immigrant classifications

  • INA 203(b)(4) – Certain special immigrants

  • 8 CFR 204.5 – Petitions for employment-based immigrants

  • 8 CFR 204.9 – Special immigrant status for certain aliens who have served honorably (or are enlisted to serve) in the Armed Forces of the United States for at least 12 years

  • Section 1059 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, as amended[19] – Special immigrant status for persons serving as translators and interpreters with the U.S. armed forces

  • Section 1244 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, as amended[20] – Special immigrant status for certain Iraqis

  • Section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended[21] – Special immigrant status for certain Afghans

Footnotes


[^ 1] See INA 101(a)(27).

[^ 2] See INA 203(b)(4). See Chapter 2, Religious Workers [6 USCIS-PM H.2].

[^ 3] See Chapter 8, Iraqi Nationals [6 USCIS-PM H.8].

[^ 4] See Chapter 9, Afghan Nationals [6 USCIS-PM H.9].

[^ 5] See Chapter 10, Iraqi and Afghan Translators and Interpreters [6 USCIS-PM H.10].

[^ 6] See INA 101(a)(27)(C).

[^ 7] See INA 101(a)(27)(E). See INA 101(a)(27)(F). See INA 101(a)(27)(G).

[^ 8] See INA 101(a)(27)(H).

[^ 9] See INA 101(a)(27)(I). See INA 101(a)(27)(L).

[^ 10] See INA 101(a)(27)(K).

[^ 11] See INA 101(a)(27)(M).

[^ 12] See Section 1244 of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, Pub. L. 110-181 (PDF), 122 Stat. 3 (January 28, 2008), as amended by Section 1 of the Special Immigrant Status for Certain Iraqis, Pub. L. 110-242 (PDF), 122 Stat. 1567 (June 3, 2008), by Section 1 of Pub. L. 113-42 (PDF), 127 Stat. 552 (October 4, 2013), and by Section 1218 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014, Pub. L. 113-66 (PDF), 127 Stat. 672 (December 26, 2013).

[^ 13] See Section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, Title VI of Pub. L. 111-8 (PDF), 123 Stat. 524, 807 (March 11, 2009), as amended by Section 1219 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2014, Pub. L. 113-66 (PDF), 127 Stat. 672 (December 26, 2013), by Section 7034(o) the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, Pub. L. 113-76 (PDF), 128 Stat. 5 (January 17, 2014), by Section 1 of the Emergency Afghan Allies Extension Act of 2014, Pub. L. 113-160 (PDF), 128 Stat. 1853 (August 8, 2014), by Section 1227 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon NDAA for Fiscal Year 2015, Pub. L. 113-291 (PDF), 128 Stat. 3292 (December 19, 2014), by Section 1216 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2016, Pub. L. 114-92 (PDF), 129 Stat. 726 (November 25, 2015), by Section 1214 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017, Pub. L. 114-328 (PDF), 130 Stat. 2000 (December 23, 2016), by Section 7083 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017, Pub. L. 115-31 (PDF), 131 Stat. 135 (May 5, 2017), by Section 1213 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018, Pub. L. 115-91 (PDF), 131 Stat. 1283 (December 12, 2017), by Section 1222 of the John S. McCain NDAA for Fiscal Year 2019, Pub. L. 115-232 (PDF), 132 Stat. 1636 (August 13, 2018), by Section 7076 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019, Pub. L. 116-6 (PDF), 133 Stat. 13 (February 15, 2019), and by Section 1215 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2020, Pub. L. 116-92 (PDF) (December 20, 2019).

[^ 14] See Section 1059 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, Pub. L. 109-163 (PDF), 119 Stat. 3136 (January 6, 2006), as amended by Pub. L. 110–36 (PDF), 121 Stat. 227 (June 15, 2007), and by Pub. L. 110-242 (PDF), 122 Stat. 1567 (June 3, 2008).

[^ 15] See INA 101(a)(27)(A). See 9 FAM 502.7-2(B), Returning Resident Status.

[^ 16] See INA 101(a)(27)(B).

[^ 17] See INA 101(a)(27)(D) (allowing for special immigrant status for an alien (and derivatives) who is an employee or is an honorably retired employee of the U.S. government outside the United States). The U.S. Department of State adjudicates petitions for classification as special immigrant international employees of the U.S. government abroad. For more information, see Volume 7, Adjustment of Status, Part F, Special Immigrant-Based (EB-4) Adjustment, Chapter 3, International Employees of U.S. government Abroad [7 USCIS-PM F.3].

[^ 18] For information about special immigrant juveniles defined by INA 101(a)(27)(J), see Part J, Special Immigrant Juveniles [6 USCIS-PM J].

[^ 19] See Section 1059 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, Pub. L. 109-163 (PDF), 119 Stat. 3136 (January 6, 2006), as amended by Pub. L. 110–36 (PDF), 121 Stat. 227 (June 15, 2007), and by Pub. L. 110-242 (PDF), 122 Stat. 1567 (June 3, 2008).

[^ 20] See Section 1244 of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, Pub. L. 110-181 (PDF), 122 Stat. 3 (January 28, 2008), as amended by Section 1 of the Special Immigrant Status for Certain Iraqis, Pub. L. 110-242 (PDF), 122 Stat. 1567 (June 3, 2008), by Section 1 of Pub. L. 113-42 (PDF), 127 Stat. 552 (October 4, 2013), and by Section 1218 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014, Pub. L. 113-66 (PDF), 127 Stat. 672 (December 26, 2013).

[^ 21]See Section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, Title VI of Pub. L. 111-8 (PDF), 123 Stat. 524, 807 (March 11, 2009), as amended by Section 1219 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2014, Pub. L. 113-66 (PDF), 127 Stat. 672 (December 26, 2013), by Section 7034(o) the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, Pub. L. 113-76 (PDF), 128 Stat. 5 (January 17, 2014), by Section 1 of the Emergency Afghan Allies Extension Act of 2014, Pub. L. 113-160 (PDF), 128 Stat. 1853 (August 8, 2014), by Section 1227 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon NDAA for Fiscal Year 2015, Pub. L. 113-291 (PDF), 128 Stat. 3292 (December 19, 2014), by Section 1216 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2016, Pub. L. 114-92 (PDF), 129 Stat. 726 (November 25, 2015), by Section 1214 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017, Pub. L. 114-328 (PDF), 130 Stat. 2000 (December 23, 2016), by Section 7083 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017,Pub. L. 115-31 (PDF), 131 Stat. 135 (May 5, 2017), by Section 1213 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018, Pub. L. 115-91 (PDF), 131 Stat. 1283 (December 12, 2017), by Section 1222 of the John S. McCain NDAA for Fiscal Year 2019, Pub. L. 115-232 (PDF), 132 Stat. 1636 (August 13, 2018), by Section 7076 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019, Pub. L. 116-6 (PDF), 133 Stat. 13 (February 15, 2019), and by Section 1215 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2020, Pub. L. 116-92 (PDF) (December 20, 2019).

Resources

Legal Authorities

8 CFR 204.5 - Petitions for employment-based immigrants

8 CFR 204.9 - Special immigrant status for certain aliens who have served honorably (or are enlisted to serve) in the Armed Forces of the United States for at least 12 years

INA 101(a)(27) - Definitions of certain special immigrants

INA 201 - Worldwide level of immigration

INA 202 - Numerical limitations on individual foreign states

INA 203 - Allocation of immigrant visas

INA 203(b)(4) - Certain special immigrants

INA 204(a)(1)(G)(i) - Petitioning procedure

INA 2048 CFR 204 - Procedure for granting immigrant status

Pub. L. 109-163 (PDF) - Section 1059 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, as amended – Special immigrant status for persons serving as translators with U.S. armed forces

Pub. L. 110-181 (PDF) - Section 1244 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, as amended – Special immigrant status for certain Iraqis

Pub. L. 111-8 (PDF) - Section 602(b), Title VI of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009

Appendices

No appendices available at this time.

Updates

Technical Update - Incorporating Existing Guidance into the Policy Manual

This technical update is part of an initiative to move existing policy guidance from the Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) into the Policy Manual. This update does not make major substantive changes but consolidates and incorporates existing AFM guidance into the Policy Manual, streamlining USCIS’ immigration policy while removing obsolete information. This guidance replaces Chapters 22.3 and 26 of the AFM, related appendices, and policy memoranda.

Technical Update - Moving the Adjudicator’s Field Manual Content into the USCIS Policy Manual

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk (PDF) between the AFM and the Policy Manual.

Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Foreign National”

This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].