Perlmutter Bill Would Grant Visas to USAID, Green Zone Workers

If passed, Rep. Perlmutter’s proposal would allow foreign employees of the U.S. in conflict zones to apply for an American visa after one year of service.A bill that would expedite visas for Iraqi and Afghan citizens who worked for the U.S. government during the current conflicts was introduced in Congress last week by Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter, who represents central Jefferson County.

The bill is meant to protect people whose lives are at risk in their home countries because of their connection to the American government in a time of war.

Rep. Perlmutter’s proposal would reduce the amount of time of “faithful service” required for foreign employees to be eligible for the special immigrant visa.

After just one year working for the U.S. government in the midst of an ongoing military and civil conflict, foreign nationals could apply for a visa to relocate their families to the U.S.

“This legislation was written with Iraq and Afghanistan in mind,” said Chris Votoupal, spokesperson for Perlmutter. But the bill is written so that it could potentially help foreign employees of American embassies in other war-torn nations, he added.

A similar proposal to allow Iraqi interpreters who worked for the American forces to qualify for special immigrant visas was signed into law in July. Perlmutter’s bill is aimed at USAID workers in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as employees in the Green Zone in Baghdad — from cooks and custodians to secretaries and security guards.

All successful visa applicants would have to pass a background check and a review by the State Department. 

The special immigrant visas that would be granted under Perlmutter’s proposal would not count toward the regional immigration caps established by U.S. immigration law.

Votoupal estimates roughly 2,000 Iraqis would be eligible for special immigrant visas under the proposed bill, which places no limit on the number of this type of visa that can be issued.

Not only would the proposed legislation help Iraqis, but it would also help the U.S. government attract “quality people to help us out and help out interests in Iraq,” Votoupal said.

Perlmutter’s bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee. It is one of at least three bills this session in the House with similar aims to help foreign nationals whose lives are threatened as a result of their cooperation with Americans.

To read Perlmutter’s proposed legislation click here and search for bill number H.R. 4064.

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Kate Bernuth

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