Are There Enough Special Immigrant Visas for All Afghan Allies?

Are There Enough Special Immigrant Visas for All Afghan Allies?

Afghans who were employed for a minimum of two years by the US government or International Security Assistance Force, provided faithful and valuable service to the United States (as evidenced by a recommendation letter from a supervisor), and experience a serious and ongoing threat because of their employment are eligible for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. An estimated 54,000 Afghans likely meet these qualifications, according to researchers at the Association of Wartime Allies and American University.

Sources: Congressional Research Service, Association of Wartime Allies and American University, US Department of State, The New York Times

Since the program’s inception in 2007, approximately 75,700 Afghans – 21,500 principal applicants and their 54,200 family members – have been granted SIVs as of June 2021. An estimated 118,000 additional Afghans are eligible for admission to the United States under this program, as principal applicants or as family members.

On July 30, 2021, President Biden signed the Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 3237). The bill authorized 8,000 additional SIVs for Afghan principal applicants bringing the total visas offered to 34,500. According to a report from the  New York Times, about 18,000 principal SIV applications are pending, but there are only 13,000 unclaimed SIVs available for principal applicants.

While the addition of 8,000 SIVs is a lifeline for some SIV recipients, about 19,500 allies who meet the criteria for the program and their families will be left behind by the SIV program unless the current cap on principal applicants is raised again.

Many SIV-eligible individuals with pending applications or who have yet to apply for the program remain in vulnerable situations. Many are trapped in Afghanistan. Others may be stuck in transit. Some may be able to resettle in the United States under the P-2 refugee designation or receive humanitarian parole while they apply for asylum or other protection.

*Note: Data presented here comes from several sources, and it’s important to note that these numbers are estimates and changing. Additionally, those eligible for the SIV program and their families are one of many populations that are at high risk if they remain in Afghanistan.

To learn more about the SIV program and other efforts to protect people fleeing Afghanistan, read the September 22nd Special Issue of the CMS Migration Update.