BAGHDAD, July 24 (UPI) -- Iraqi employees working for the U.S. government in Iraq are eligible for a special immigrant visa under a new program announced Thursday.
The "Special Immigrant Status for Certain Iraqis" program, authorized in June, makes 5,000 visas available for Iraqi employees every year over the course of the next five years, the U.S. Embassy said.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said the program is "a significant step" in the efforts to compensate Iraqi citizens who risked their lives working for the U.S. government.
"The tremendous sacrifices that they and their families have made deserve our recognition and support. I am pleased that this special immigrant visa program is now available to reward their loyal service to the United States," Crocker said.
Applicants must be Iraqi citizens who provided at least one year of service to the U.S. government since the 2003 invasion and who have encountered serious threats to their lives as a result of that service.
The program includes resettlement benefits by way of housing and healthcare benefits for up to eight months. Transportation costs to the United States will be covered by the program, though the visa recipients are required to repay their airfare at a later date.
The spouses and any children under the age of 18 who are unmarried will qualify for the immigrant visa, though these will not count toward the annual cap.