Foreign Employees of the U.S. Government Applying for Green Cards
The U.S. maintains a physical presence in many foreign countries, including locations such as military bases, embassies, and consulates. A large percentage of the employees at these locations are foreign nationals. Some of them are citizens of the country where they work, but others are citizens of other countries. If they show significant loyalty to the U.S. by staying in their jobs for a long time, they may be able to get an immigrant visa and a green card. The foreign national’s spouse and children also may be able to qualify for this status.
You can apply for this type of green card as either a current employee or an honorably retired employee of the U.S. government. Honorable retirement means that you were not fired and did not resign to avoid being fired. It includes people who were laid off during a general reduction in force. You would need to have accumulated at least 15 total years of “faithful service,” and you would need to provide a recommendation from the “principal officer” of a U.S. foreign service establishment. Faithful service does not have a precise definition and will be evaluated under the specific circumstances. A principal officer is the head of a field office of a U.S. government agency, such as an ambassador or consul.
Visa Eligibility for U.S. Government Employees Abroad
Current or honorably retired employee of the U.S. government abroad
Combined 15 years of “faithful service”
Recommendation from a principal officer of a U.S. foreign service establishment
Recommended based on “exceptional circumstances”
Approved by the U.S. State Department
Proving Exceptional Circumstances
The other main requirement for this type of status is that the recommendation must be based on “exceptional circumstances.” If you would be at risk of persecution or serious harm if you stayed in your home country, based on your work for the U.S., this likely would qualify as exceptional circumstances. If you know confidential information that affects U.S. national security, you might meet this requirement because the U.S. government might want to prevent disclosure of the information. Any situation in which you risked your life to protect the interests of the U.S. or its citizens would clearly qualify.
You also might meet the exceptional circumstances requirement if you can show that you have a long track record of awards, a very long period of employment, or a long period of employment in a nation other than your home country. If you held substantial responsibilities for an extended time and handled them capably, this might be enough.
Applying for a Green Card as a Foreign Employee of the U.S. Government
The first step is to ask your supervisor about your eligibility, or your former supervisor if you are retired. They can let you know whether they will provide a recommendation for you. Then, the supervisor will send the recommendation to the Advisory Opinions Division of the U.S. State Department, together with documents supporting the recommendation. The State Department has the discretion to approve or deny the recommendation.
If the State Department approves the recommendation, you will need to file Form DS-1884 with the consulate in your area. You do not need to pay any fees. The petition will remain valid for six months, so you should be prepared to apply for your immigrant visa within that time. If an unexpected delay arises, you can apply for an extension. If you are not inadmissible to the U.S., you should be able to get the immigrant visa without trouble. It will remain valid for the next year, so you will need to come to the U.S. within that time.
After the U.S. State Department approves the recommendation, the foreign employee should: