AILA Provides One-Pagers Related to Immigration Options for Afghan Nationals
AILA provides one-pagers related to the various immigration options available to Afghan nationals.
Relief for Afghan Nationals: Fee Waivers
Where an applicant is unable to pay the filing fees or biometric services fees for a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) application or petition, the applicant may be able to request a fee waiver. This is typically available to applicants who receive need-based benefits, who are low income, or who have qualifying financial hardship. Certain Afghan Nationals may be eligible for fee waivers depending on the types of applications that they are filing. This includes applications for travel documents if the individual is applying for humanitarian parole, applications for lawful permanent residence based on Special Immigrant Status as an Afghan Interpreter, or Afghan nationals employed by or on behalf of the U.S. Government. Fee waivers may also be requested for any biometric services fees.
Relief for Afghan Nationals: Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program
Congress initially established the SIV program with the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009. The program is intended to protect Afghans who worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan and are at risk because of their service. The July 2021 Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act extended the program and reduced the required length of employment from two years to one year. The Act also allowed certain surviving spouses and children of U.S. government employees to abroad to obtain special immigrant status.
Relief for Afghan Nationals: P-1, P-2, and P-3 Refugee Status
The U.S. government establishes processing priorities that determine which of the world’s refugees are “of special humanitarian concern to the United States” and therefore eligible to be considered for resettlement in the United States. On August 2, 2021, The Department of State announced a Priority 2 designation (P-2) for some Afghan refugees and their families, allowing them access to P-2 resettlement options. The following sets out the eligibility criteria and application process for P-1, P-2, and P-3 status.
Eligibility for a priority status will not guarantee approval and entry into the United States. Instead, eligibility generally qualifies a person to have an interview with a DHS officer to determine whether the person meets the refugee definition, is not already firmly resettled, and is not excluded on other grounds. If individuals meet the criteria, they will undergo the same processing steps as other refugees, including extensive security vetting. Those who qualify for an SIV should not apply for P-1, P-2, or P-3 refugee status. For all priorities, in emergencies, the Foreign Affairs Manual instructs U.S. Embassies to contact PRM immediately to coordinate with USCIS to address the case (9 FAM 403-2(e)).
Relief for Afghan Nationals: Humanitarian Parole
Humanitarian parole authorizes an individual to temporarily enter the United States when there is an urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit. See INA section 212(d)(5)). Parole requests are discretionary and reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Anyone may request parole for himself or herself, or on behalf of another individual.
A variety of circumstances and reasons for the requests are considered (e.g., emergency medical reasons, family reunification, participation in legal proceedings, protection from targeted harm). A grant of humanitarian parole allows for lawful presence in the United States for a specific period. Humanitarian parole does not confer immigration status and does not provide a path to permanent residency. Generally, USCIS will specify the duration of parole, if granted.
Under the Operation Allies Welcome program, Afghans granted paroled will be permitted to stay for two years and may be eligible to apply for immigration status. The CDC issued a humanitarian parole exemption to the requirement for a Negative Pre-Departure COVID-19 Test Result for individuals relocating to the U.S. from Afghanistan. However, once in the United States, Afghans may be subject to medical screening and vaccination requirements.