Protections for Surviving Afghan Relatives Under the SIV Program
The derivative spouse and children of applicants who qualify under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program may be eligible to continue with the process in the event of the death of the principal applicant. Section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended, authorizes the issuance of SIVs to Afghan nationals who meet certain requirements and who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan, or by the International Security Assistance Force or a successor mission, for a period of at least one year. The first step in the SIV application process typically begins with the applicant seeking Chief of Mission (COM) approval. Section 602(b)(2)(C) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act, as amended, provides that a surviving spouse or child of an individual seeking COM approval may continue with the process, if the COM application would have been approved if the principal applicant had survived.
The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) explains that if the Afghan citizen with the qualifying term of employment had not yet submitted an application for COM approval at the time of their death, the surviving spouse and children may submit one, even after the principal applicant’s death. Instructions for seeking COM approval are available through the State Department. In addition, if the application for COM approval was already submitted prior to the principal applicant’s death, the Chief of Mission may continue to process the application unless the surviving relatives specifically ask to withdraw it.
After COM approval is received, eligible Afghan citizens then move to the second step, filing a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. The FAM confirms that the immigrant visa process may continue for surviving relatives if the I-360 petition was already approved but was revoked or terminated after its approval due to the death of the principal applicant. According to State Department guidance, the consulates may continue to process the application without affirmative action by USCIS to reinstate the petition, so long as the derivatives were included on the petition approved by USCIS. The USCIS Policy Manual similarly confirms that a surviving spouse and children remain eligible for special immigrant status if the principal applicant had a visa petition approved under Section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act but died after the approval. Thus, the implementing guidance from both USCIS and the State Department makes clear that surviving relatives can continue with the SIV process regardless of where the deceased principal was in the process, provided he or she established the qualifying term of employment.