Even though the war in Iraq is formally over, everyone in North Carolina knows that the situation there is not entirely peaceful. There is still some fighting and one group that remains under threat of persecution and violence are the Iraqi Kurds who worked with the United States military during the Iraq war. While some Kurds have family in the United States, they are having trouble getting the necessary visas to immigrate.
In some cases, men and women can apply for visas that are supposed to make immigrating to the United States easier for those people who are being threatened or harassed for their assistance to American military forces. While one Kurdish man traveled from Iraq to the American embassy in Ankara, Turkey, spending thousands of dollars to apply for this special visa, he was denied.
Another option for some people is to apply for asylum or refugee status. An individual can be granted asylum status if he or she has been persecuted or threatened because of his or her religion, political opinions, race, or national origin in his or her home country. While it seems like some of the Kurdish peoples still in Iraq certainly fit this definition, becoming a refugee or asylee requires close work with an experienced American immigration attorney.
The number of Iraqis who have come to the United States on immigrant visas has dropped sharply. Only 9,000 Iraqi citizens were given visas in 2011, down from the 18,000 Iraqis that arrived in 2010. This special visa program allows 25,000 visas to be issued over the span of five years, but since it started in 2008, only 7,000 visas have been approved.
Source: Minnesota Public Radio, "Kurdish refugees want visas for relatives, friends who helped US military," Dan Gunderson, Jan. 18, 2012