U.S. Citizenship may be possible for some foreign diplomats and employees of international organizations in the U.S. This option is open to foreign officials and employees of embassies or consulates in the U.S. (with an A visa) and foreign officials and employees of international organizations in the U.S. (with a G visa). Those on A and G visas may develop strong ties to the U.S., living for many years here with their family, and opt for a pathway to citizenship.
Some may hope to gain permanent residency, yet find themselves limited due to their diplomatic status. However, if willing to waive their diplomatic rights, privileges and immunities, these visa holders may be eligible to qualify for a green card, both under ordinary and special immigrant categories.
Waiver of Rights
A Waiver of Rights is required before diplomats receive a U.S. green card. This waiver does not require that you abandon your position with the foreign entity. Rather, you must accept liability to U.S. taxes and give up diplomatic immunity (such as immunity from criminal prosecution).
To waive these rights, you will file a Form I-508, Waiver of Rights, Privileges, Exemptions and Immunities, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at the time you file for your green card application. At this time, you will also file all supporting documents and a Form I-566, Inter-agency Record of Request.
Special Green Card for Foreign Diplomats
Foreign government representatives with diplomatic or semi-diplomatic duties (A1, A2, G-1, or G-2 visa holders) may qualify for a special type of green card (Section 13) if they have failed to maintain diplomatic status, cannot return to their home country due to “compelling reasons, ” or are otherwise permitted to stay in the U.S. and can demonstrate “good moral character.” This benefit is also extended to some family members. With a maximum of 50 applications per year, Section 13 remains to be a very uncommon option.
One example of this eligibility would be a foreign ambassador who defected from their government due to civil unrest or war in their country. Rather than the drawn-out process of asylum, they could qualify under Section 13. Differing from most green card application first steps, this would not require the applicant to have first filed an immigrant petition. This option however, does not usually apply to foreign embassy employees that lack a decision-making role or officials who lack a “compelling reason.”
Special Green Card for International Organization Employees
Former employees and officers of international organizations, who have lived in the U.S. on a G visa for a minimum of 15 years (prior to retirement and at least 7 years prior to their application), are eligible to apply for a green card. This application is filed with Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant and must be filed no later than six months after their retirement.
Spouses (including those of deceased former international organization employees) may also qualify for a green card. For a widow(er), they may file no later than six months after the death of the former officer or employee.
Unmarried children of current or former international organization officers or employees may also be eligible for a green card. They qualify if they are under 25 years old, have lived in the U.S. on a G visa for at least seven years between the ages of 5 and 21 and for at least half of the seven years before they file the green card application.