THE INFORMATION GIVEN BELOW IS VERY GENERAL AND IS NOT INTENDED TO SERVE AS INDIVIDUAL LEGAL ADVICE. EACH PERSON’S SITUATION IS UNIQUE. IMMIGRATION LAW CAN BE QUITE COMPLICATED AND IMMIGRATION RULES, PROCEDURES AND PRACTICES CAN, AND FREQUENTLY DO, CHANGE WITH LITTLE NOTICE. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE INFORMATION PRESENTED HERE, YOU SHOULD SEEK ADVICE FROM A COMPETENT LEGAL PROFESSIONAL.
The G-4 visa is a nonimmigrant U.S. visa for employees of international organizations and members of their immediate families. Officers and employees of international organizations are considered “principals” while their family members are considered “dependents.”
You must obtain a U.S. G-4 visa before you travel to Washington to begin your assignment at the IMF. You should also be aware that dependent family members who are eligible for G-4 visas should also obtain them before traveling to the U.S.
New Fund hires may direct questions about G-4 visas to their HR contact in the Talent Acquisition and Operations Division.
Changing G-4 Dependent Status to Another Non-Immigrant Visa
The U.S. State Department does not allow a dependent spouse or child G-4 visa holder to change his/her nonimmigrant status or maintain a different nonimmigrant visa (e.g., F-1 student visa or H-1B temporary worker) as long as he or she is eligible for, and entitled to, a G-4 visa. This is commonly referred to as the “G4 Visa Trump Rule.”
There are some exceptions to this rule. Consult with the Fund’s HR Center for further guidance.
Changing from G-4 Status to Legal Permanent Residency
A Fund employee or his/her dependents may change status from nonimmigrant to immigrant status, provided that the individual is eligible for such status, files the appropriate documents, and is approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, you should be aware that a staff member changing from G-4 to legal permanent resident status becomes ineligible for the Fund’s expatriate benefits.
Renewing Your G-4 Visa
Your family’s G-4 visas may be renewed in the U.S. through the Passport & Travel Visa Services Section of the Fund’s Transportation Division. The renewal process can be initiated at any time within the 60-day period prior to the visa’s expiration date; however, you are encouraged to apply for renewals well in advance of any expected travel outside the U.S.
When You Separate or Retire from the IMF
Following your retirement or separation from the Fund, you and your family members may remain in the United States under G-4 status for up to 30 days. Once you have separated from the Fund, you cannot travel abroad and re-enter the U.S. on your G-4 visa even if your visa is still valid. Retired staff members who, while maintaining G-4 visa status, have resided and been physically present in the United States for periods totaling fifteen years, and, while maintaining G-4 visa status, have resided and been physically present in the United States for periods totaling three and a half years during the seven years before applying, can apply for U.S. permanent residency if they apply within six months following retirement. The IMF defines a “retiree” as someone who is either receiving or is immediately eligible to receive a pension. Spouses of retirees are also eligible to obtain a green card by filing along with the retiree. Under certain circumstances, a widow or widower of a G-4 visa holding staff member may apply for a green card if he/she satisfies certain residence and physical presence requirements.
Social Security Number
A Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued by the Social Security Administration primarily to track individuals for Social Security purposes. It is also often used as a form of identification for taxation and other purposes.
Do I need a Social Security number?
Anyone working for a U.S. employer in the United States needs a Social Security Number (SSN). This applies to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents. G-4 visa holders often do not apply for an SSN because it is not a requirement of their employment and a SSN is not needed to conduct business with a broker, bank or financial institution, purchase U.S. savings bonds, register for school, or file a tax return. However, to facilitate many transactions that you will encounter in daily life, such as obtaining a credit card, cell phone or driver’s license, it may be useful to get one.
Am I eligible for a Social Security number?
All persons who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents (green card holders) are entitled to an SSN, regardless if they are employed or eligible for employment. Spouses and dependents with G-4 visas are also eligible to receive a SSN if they are authorized to work in the United States. Read more about obtaining work authorization for G-4 dependents.
Spouses and dependents who do not have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will not be issued an SSN.
Find out more about Social Security numbers for noncitizens.
Applying for a Social Security number
Anyone who applies for a SSN will get either: 1) a receipt stating that he/she has applied for an SSN or 2) a letter denying the application and stating the reason why. Persons who are not eligible for SSN’s, e.g., G-4 spouses and children without work authorization, will get the letter. The SSA will not, however, issue such a letter to anyone who is eligible for an SSN, but does not have one. This will likely mean that G-4 staff members, as well as spouses and dependents who have work authorization in the U.S., and G-5 employees will need to apply for an SSN before they apply for a new driver’s license.
A Social Security number may be obtained by applying on Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Number Card.
G-4 employees should bring their IMF appointment letter or verification of employment, passport, G-4 Visa, Form I-94, and Form SS-5 in person to a Social Security office no earlier than ten days after arriving in the United States.
G-4 dependents should bring their passport, EAD, G-4 Visa, Form I-94, and Form SS-5, as well as a copy of your spouse’s IMF appointment letter or verification of employment and passport, G-4 Visa, and Form I-94, in person to a Social Security office.
G-5 employees should bring their passport, G-5 visa, Form I-94, and Form SS-5 in person to a Social Security Office.
Note: It is recommended that you apply for an SSN at the Social Security office located at 21st and M Streets, NW in the District of Columbia, as the personnel in this office are familiar with G-4 visa holders. In most cases, eligible individuals will receive their Social Security cards within two weeks of applying. However, because the SSA must verify your immigration status and documents with the Department of Homeland Security, in some cases there may be a delay of 45 to 60 days. Applicants who do not hear from the SSA in the stated time frame should return to the Social Security office to check on their status.
Hiring a G-5 Domestic Employee
The G-5 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for attendants, servants or personal employees of G-4 visa holders. The immediate family members of principal G-5 visa holders also qualify for G-5 visa.
The G-5 visa program
The G-5 visa program is available as a special privilege for full-time Fund staff who are G-4 visa holders. The G-5 employee and his/her employer, the G-4 staff member, must comply with the requirements specified in the IMF’s G-5 Employer Code of Conduct and related policies, as well as with the legal requirements of the federal, state and local authorities in the U.S. Please note that under the Code of Conduct, G-4 employers and their G-5 employees are required to attend an orientation. Orientations are held year-round at the World Bank; check the IMF Calendar for dates of available orientations. Both parties are also required to attend a review seminar every three years of the G-5s employment.
G-4 staff members must obtain a G-5 visa through the Fund, which acts as the sponsoring organization. If you plan to bring a domestic employee with you, please coordinate with your recruitment contact in the Human Resources Department.
Once you have identified a prospective G-5 employee, you will need to follow the procedures for hiring a G-5 employee. The Fund’s immigration law firm coordinates this process and may be contacted through the HR Center.
Examples of G-5 domestic employees
G-5 occupations include cook, butler, valet, maid, housekeeper, governess, janitor, laundress, caretaker, handyman, gardener, chauffeur, babysitter/nanny, and companion for the aged or infirmed. G-5 domestics may work only in the home of the sponsoring G-4 employer.
Forms & Sample Contracts for G-5 Employee Administration
The G-5 contract must address all aspects of employment and must be signed by both the G-4 employer and the G-5 employee. The Fund provides the required format that incorporates the mandatory language. Employers of G-5 employees are to use these standard formats in preparing a contract of employment. If the G-5 employee does not understand English, the contract must also be made available in a second language; however, the English version will be the binding document. However, please note that many embassies are now requiring the contract in both English and the employee’s native language, regardless of English language proficiency.
Household Employer Obligations
Household Employer Obligations are the legal requirements for employers of household employees in the DC Metro region, including required registration, taxes, Social Security, overtime, worker’s compensation, etc. These are detailed in the Code of Conduct for G-5 employment.
G-5 Domestic Employee Medical Insurance
The Fund does not offer medical insurance coverage to G-5 domestic employees of G-4 staff members. However, G-4 employers are strongly encouraged to arrange medical insurance for their employees through other health care organizations. G-5 Employees are eligible to obtain health insurance through the Affordable Healthcare Act local exchanges or through a private company.
G-5 Visa Renewal and I-94 Extension
The I-94 Admission Record, and not the G-5 visa, governs the validity of the domestic employee’s stay in the United States. The I-94 record is indicated in a stamp in the G-5 visa passport and should be verified online. The staff member is obligated to ensure that the G-5 domestic employee’s I-94 is submitted to the Department of State for extension sixty (60) days prior to expiration. If the domestic employee’s I-94 expires prior to submission to the Department of State, the domestic employee will be out of legal status. For G-5 visa renewal and I-94 extension, please contact the HR Center.
Although the G-5 visa is allowed to expire, it is highly recommended your G-5 have a valid visa at all times. A valid visa is also required for driver license applications and renewals. The G-5 will be required to renew his/her visa abroad, most likely in the home country.
Obtaining Permanent Residency
Through G-4 Visa Status
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act the following categories of G-4 visa holders may be eligible for legal permanent residence (“green cards”):
- certain unmarried sons and daughters of staff members
- some surviving spouses of recently deceased staff members
- recently retired staff members
- spouses of recently retired staff members.
Eligibility requirements for each category
All eligible individuals must meet specific requirements for the applicable category. Unmarried sons and daughters of current or former officers and employees of international organizations who
- while maintaining G-4 or N visa status, have resided and been physically present in the United States for periods totaling seven years between the ages of five and twenty-one years of age; AND
- while maintaining G-4 or N visa status, have resided and been physically present in the United States for periods totaling three and a half years during the seven years before applying; AND
- apply for a visa or adjustment of status before their 25th birthday.
Surviving spouses of deceased officers and employees of international organizations who
- were married to the deceased officer or employee at the time of the spouse’s death; AND
- while maintaining G-4 or N visa status, have resided and been physically present in the United States for fifteen years before the spouse’s death; AND
- while maintaining G-4 or N visa status, have resided and been physically present in the United States for periods totaling three and a half years during the seven years before applying; AND
- file a petition within six months after the death of the spouse.
Retired officers and employees of international organizations who
- while maintaining G-4 visa status, have resided and been physically present in the United States for periods totaling fifteen years; AND
- while maintaining G-4 visa status, have resided and been physically present in the United States for periods totaling three and a half years during the seven years before applying; AND
- file a petition within six months following the date of retirement.
Spouses of retired officers and employees of international organizations who
- are the current spouses of retired officers or employees who qualify under the provision of retired officers and employees described above; AND
- file with the retiree or follow to join the retiree after his or her case is completed.
Some Effects of Acquiring Permanent Residence
Acquiring permanent residency entitles the individual to
- work in the United States without restriction or authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”).
- stay in the United States permanently, regardless of whether or not he or she is employed by the Fund.
- apply for U.S. citizenship after five years (three years for those married to U.S. citizens for at least three years, at least half of which must be physically in the U.S.) and upon reaching age 18.
Permanent residency also requires that individuals be taxed by the United States on his or her world-wide income. Fund pensions of permanent residents are subject to U.S. tax.
- A permanent resident is considered a resident of the United States for income and estate tax purposes and will be taxed by the United States on his or her world-wide income. Permanent residents employed by the Fund are not subject to U.S. tax on their Fund salaries. However, Fund pensions of permanent residents are subject to U.S. tax.
- The individual must be able to prove that the United States remains his or her permanent residence by continually maintaining ties to this country. Examples of such ties include filing yearly federal income tax returns, as well as maintaining one’s principal residence, bank accounts and other financial assets, social connections, and current driver’s license in the United States.
How to apply
The application process depends on whether you are applying while in the United States (“adjustment of status”) or from abroad (“visa processing”).
N-Visas for Parents of Children or Children of Parents Granted Special Immigrant Status
Parents of children who obtain permanent residence under the special immigrant provision described above may be granted an “N” visa to remain in the United States. This visa may be appropriate for a parent who is no longer eligible for a G-4 visa due to separation from the Fund or divorce from, or death of, the staff member. The N Visa is valid for three years, with extensions allowed until the child reaches age 21. The N visa holder may work in the United States without restriction as to location or type of employment.
N-Visas for Children of Parents Granted Special Immigrant Status
Children of parents granted N visa or permanent resident status under the special immigrant provisions described above may also be granted an N visa to remain in the United States. This visa may be appropriate for a child who is no longer eligible for a G-4 visa due to death of the staff member parent. The N visa is available for children only until they reach age 21.
Through G-4 Visa Status
There are other ways to obtain permanent residency.
Sponsorship by U.S. Citizens
U.S. citizens may sponsor their children under age 21, their spouse, and their parents for permanent residence under the immediate relative classification. The U.S. citizen child petitioning for a parent must be 21 years of age or over. An alien who was the spouse of a U.S. citizen for at least two years at the time of the citizen’s death is also considered an immediate relative. There are no limitations on the number of persons admitted as immediate relatives, and visas are always available. citizens can also sponsor their unmarried children over age 21 and their married children over age 21. U.S. citizens over age 21 can also sponsor their siblings. However, there is usually a substantial waiting period for visas to immigrate in these categories.
Sponsorship by Permanent Resident Relatives
Lawfully admitted permanent residents may sponsor their spouses and their unmarried children. There is a substantial waiting list for visas to immigrate in these categories.
Many U.S. jobs held by G-4 spouses and children can qualify for labor certification approval, which is a prerequisite to obtaining permanent residence status through employer sponsorship. When an employer sponsors a foreign national for permanent residence, he or she must show that the individual will not be taking a job from a U.S. worker. This is shown by obtaining a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. If the alien meets the qualifications for the job as stated in the labor certification application and meets all other USCIS requirements, permanent residence status is usually granted. Categories for employment-based immigration include the following: professionals with advanced degrees or the equivalent, or with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business; professionals with bachelor’s degrees and skilled workers performing jobs that require at least two years of experience; and unskilled workers performing jobs requiring less than two years of experience. Labor certifications are required for these categories. After obtaining an approved labor certification, the alien may apply for permanent residence and await the availability of a visa under the applicable preference classifications. When an immigrant visa becomes available, the alien can either adjust status to permanent residence at a local USCIS office, if eligible, or obtain the visa through consular processing abroad.
In addition, there is the priority worker category for which a labor certification is not required. Priority workers include individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, business, education, and athletics; outstanding professors and researchers with three years of experience and international recognition; and certain multi-national corporate executives and managers employed overseas by a parent, subsidiary or branch of the petitioning U.S. employer. Another category that does not require a labor certification is for aliens with advanced degrees in professional fields or of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business whose employment would be in the national interest. Since there are no regulations defining national interest, the USCIS exercises discretion in determining whether benefits to the U.S. in such areas as business, medicine, science, culture, and education are sufficient to qualify for this category.
While the procedures for obtaining permanent resident visas based on a job and labor certification or as a priority worker are complicated, obtaining the visa is usually worth the effort: permitting the principal visa holder to work and stay indefinitely in the U.S., and qualifying to file taxes as a resident, and being eligible to sponsor a spouse and children for permanent visas. If desired, the permanent resident’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may obtain visas at the same time.
There may be a waiting list for visas for some employment-based categories. It will be necessary to obtain a valid nonimmigrant visa to stay in the U.S. during the application process and while waiting for an immigrant visa.
Diversity Visa Program
The Immigration Act of 1990 created the permanent diversity program to begin in October 1994. This program provides 55,000 diversity visas annually to natives of countries selected through a complicated formula based on the numbers of immigrants to the U.S. by country and region. Eligible countries will be designated by the State Department each fiscal year. The list of countries can be expected to change somewhat from year to year. To qualify under the diversity program, a foreign national must come from a designated country, have at least a high school education, or have worked at least two years in an occupation requiring two years of experience or training.
Another provision that may benefit G-4 visa holders and their families is the updating of the “registry” provision. Registry is a procedure whereby an alien who has resided continuously in the U.S. since before January 1, 1972, and is not otherwise inadmissible, may obtain permanent resident status. An application for “registry” can only be filed at a local USCIS District Office.
Refugees and Asylees
Refugees and asylees seek to reside permanently in the U.S. because of persecution in their home countries. Refugees are not yet in the U.S. and apply for admission at U.S. consulates abroad. Asylees are already in the U.S. and are unable to return to their home countries. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the President, in consultation with Congress, determines an annual numerical quota for the admission of refugees and Asylees. The standard for qualifying as an asylee or refugee is an inability to return home due to a “well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”. Winning asylum and refugee cases can be very difficult and requires a great deal of documentation. The State Department can issue advisory opinions to USCIS on asylum, advising in favor of the granting of asylum in few cases. Applications for refugee status are processed through U.S. consulates abroad.
Fund’s Legal Services Consultant
Information on how and where to apply for permanent residence may be obtained from Joyce Reback (jreback (at) imf.org), the Fund’s Legal Services Consultant, who can provide general information and answer general questions.
Fund staff are also eligible for a free one time, one hour consultation over the course of their career with the Fund’s Immigration Consultant, which they may use to discuss their – or their family members’ — eligibility for permanent residence and the various options for applying for a green card.
G-4 dependents who would like to seek employment in the U.S. must obtain work authorization. Work authorization is granted only to:
- Spouses and same-sex domestic partners;
- Unmarried children under age 21;
- Unmarried children under age 23 who are full time students at post-secondary educational institutions; and
- Unmarried children of any age who are physically or mentally disabled
Anyone who needs to file a tax return (including children who cannot get work authorization or spouses who are not employed) because, for example, they must report their taxable investment income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but who does not have an SSN should apply to the IRS for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). You can apply for an ITIN by filing IRS Form W-7, available on the IRS website: www.irs.gov.