Options for Afghans to Immigrate to the United States
Afghans who seek to enter the United States can do so through various immigrant visas or other procedures:
- The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program allows Afghans who work or worked “by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan,” as well as family members, to qualify for visas and lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. To be eligible for an SIV, an Afghan national must have been employed for a minimum of two years by the U.S. government or the International Security Assistance Force, and the applicant must prove “faithful and valuable service” through a recommendation letter from a supervisor. Further, the applicants must provide evidence of continuing serious threat because of their service. (Before the current crises, DHS reported that it was taking the agency 996 calendar days — almost three years — to process SIV applicants as a result of bureaucratic red-tape for those eligible, such as securing proof of time-in-service and relevant documentation. As of early August, more than 18,000 Afghans were currently awaiting decisions on their SIV applications at the Embassy in Kabul.) The SIV program is described here and here.
- As soon as possible, anyone wanting to come to the U.S. should apply to USCIS for “Humanitarian Parole,” described in detail here. Humanitarian parole permits a person to enter the United States for humanitarian purposes. Such applicants, however, normally must apply for a travel document (Form I-131), which must be issued in order for the person to board a commercial flight and then enter the United States. The rules regarding obtaining humanitarian parole in advance are changing by the day and it appears that some Afghans who are in transit already will be “port” paroled without applying first for humanitarian parole if they can get on a U.S. evacuation flight. Afghans with approved I-130s but who have not yet cleared the immigrant visa process also will be paroled in by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
- A US citizen may file a separate Form I-130 for each parent, spouse, child, adult son/daughter and/or sibling. A permanent resident may also file Form I-130 for each of those except parents and siblings. Once an application is filed and you have a case number, call USCIS (1-800-375-5283) to request expediting of the application. USCIS should hear your plea and might expedite its decision. Once USCIS approves an I-130 and forwards it to the State Department’s National Visa Center, contact NVC to request further expediting.
- Certain Afghans might be eligible for “Refugee” status, under the “Priority 2 Designation for Afghan Nationals,” described in detail here. Under the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP), eligibility has been expanded according to two separate priorities (P1 or P2). First, Afghans such as those under especially severe threats — including women and girls, human rights defenders, journalists, and other civil society actors — can be P1-eligible if the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), a U.S. embassy, or NGO refers an applicant to USRAP. Secondly, those who do not qualify for an SIV can become P2- eligible if they worked for contractors (and/or the broader Mission Resolute Support), a U.S. government funded program, or a U.S. based media or NGO organization. According to the estimates, Afghans who qualify for either of these program priorities number in the tens of thousands.
- Contact your Senator or Representative to ask for their office’s assistance in processing and speeding up your application of any type.
- Speak with an immigration attorney to see if anyone qualifies for any other type of visa, such as H-1B (temporary professional worker), F-1 (student), etc.
Contact Deutsch, Killea and Eapen, Immigration Law Firm if you have further questions.