"Congress has enacted a series of legislative provisions since 2006 to enable certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals to become U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs). These provisions make certain Iraqis and Afghans who have worked as translators or interpreters, or who were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan, eligible for special immigrant visas (SIVs). Special immigrants comprise a category of permanent employment-based admissions under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). While the special immigrant category is unique, it does bear some similarities to other admission categories that are authorized by other sections of the INA, including refugees and Amerasian children. To apply under the SIV programs for Iraqis or Afghans, a prospective special immigrant must: submit a petition to the Department of Homeland Security; be otherwise eligible for an immigrant visa; and be otherwise admissible to the United States. An Iraqi or Afghan SIV applicant whose petition is approved and who is abroad is required to have an in-person visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to determine visa eligibility. Upon admission to the United States, SIV recipients are granted LPR status. Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants are eligible for the same resettlement assistance and federal public benefits as refugees."
CRS Report for Congress, R43725
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html