Foreign officials and employees of embassies or consulates in the U.S. ("A visa" holders), and foreign officials and employees of international organizations in the U.S. ("G visa" holders) sometimes find themselves assigned to the U.S. with their families for many years. As a result, they might develop ties to the country and wonder whether they could qualify for a green card (lawful permanent residence) in spite of their "diplomatic" status. (The U.S. government does not normally accept its own nationals or permanent residents as diplomatic agents for other governments.)
Certain A and G visa holders may, in fact, qualify for a U.S. green card (under both ordinary and special immigrant categories) if they waive (give up) their diplomatic rights, privileges, and immunities.
A and G visa holders may be eligible for a green card in any of the immigrant visa categories available to other foreign citizens, but only if they waive their diplomatic rights, privileges, and immunities.
For example, if you are an employee on the administrative staff of a foreign embassy in the U.S., you probably enjoy some immunity from criminal prosecution. However, if you would like to apply for a green card based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen, you may do so only if you agree to give up your immunity and to accept liability for U.S. taxes. You are not required to abandon your position with the foreign mission.
To waive your diplomatic rights, privileges, and immunities, you would file a Form I-508, Waiver of Rights, Privileges, Exemptions and Immunities with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS at the same time as you apply for your green card.
The rest of your green card application package should include (in addition to your immigrant petition, visa, or adjustment of status application, and supporting documents) a Form I-566, Interagency Record of Request.
Foreign government representatives whose duties could be described as diplomatic or semi-diplomatic in nature (whether they were granted an A-1 or A-2 visa and assigned to an embassy or consulate, or were granted a G-1 or G-2 visa and assigned to an international organization) may also qualify for a special type of green card ("Section 13") if they failed to maintain their diplomatic status, are unable to return to their home country due to compelling reasons, are otherwise admissible to the U.S., and can demonstrate good moral character.
Family members of such persons may also qualify for this benefit as dependents.
For example, foreign ambassadors could have a credible fear of returning to their home country after a coup or due to a civil war. The Section 13 option would allow such diplomats to obtain a green card without having to go through the laborious process of requesting asylum. They would not even need to file an immigrant petition (the usual first step in applying for most types of green cards). Instead, they would file an I-485 adjustment of status form, along with other forms required in this category.
By contrast, foreign embassy employees with no formal decision-making role (or a foreign official with less compelling reasons not to return home) would be unlikely to be permitted this benefit.
Even for qualifying officials, Section 13 green cards remain extremely rare (a maximum of 50 per year) and may be granted only if it is in the national interest of the United States.
Retired officers and employees of international organizations (such as the United Nations and the World Bank) are eligible for a special type of green card if they lived in the U.S. on a G-4 or NATO-6 visa for at least 15 years (combined) before their retirement, including for at least half of the last seven years before applying for a green card. (This application must be filed on Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant no later than six months after the officer or employee's retirement.)
The spouses of such international organization retirees, as well as the spouses of deceased former international organization officers or employees, may also independently qualify for a green card. In the latter case, the application must be filed no later than six months after the death of the former officer or employee.
Lastly, the unmarried sons and daughters of current or former international organization officers or employees are independently eligible for a green card if they have lived in the U.S. on a G-4 or NATO-6 visa for at least seven years (combined) between ages 5 and 21, and for at least half of the seven years before their application for the green card. (The application must be filed before they turn 25.)
Children born in the U.S. to accredited foreign diplomatic officers do not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. Still, these children can get a green card under a special regulation, 8 C.F.R. § 101.3.
This process does not require an immigrant visa petition, but instead the I-485 adjustment of status application must be filed, along with the I-508 and I-566 as discussed above.
Various types of supporting evidence must accompany the application. Many people working in foreign embassies in the U.S. are not actually accredited foreign diplomatic officers on what the Department of State calls the "Blue List," so before you or your child file a green card application through this process, be sure to verify that the parent was definitely on this list. If the parent was not on this list, then the child is already a U.S. citizen.
These are unusual rights and remedies within U.S. immigration law, and even the government officials you deal with might not be clear on the details. Your best bet is to hire an experienced immigration attorney to analyze your situation and help you prepare the legal arguments and paperwork.
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