A Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Could Get an Afghan Who Worked with the U.S. Military into the Country
About 20,000 Afghans worked as interpreters for U.S. forces for twenty years after the 9/11 attack. The Taliban, after taking over Afghanistan, have retaliated against those who worked for allied countries.
The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) helps those who helped our military get out of the country with their immediate family. If you’re seeking an SIV for a family member or former colleague, Carman Fullerton can help.
Afghanistan is a Dangerous and Unpredictable Place for Those Who Helped Foreign Troops
The Taliban is having a hard time switching from a guerilla force overthrowing a government to a governing body, reports the Brookings Institute. There are many ethnic groups (some historically targeted by the Taliban) that they must rule over.
The country no longer receives foreign aid as it did before, so its medical system barely functions. In addition, a terrorist group even more extreme than the Taliban, ISIS-K, is involved in an armed revolt.
For those still in the country who aided the U.S. in the past, there are also well-founded fears that the Taliban isn’t living up to its promises not to retaliate against those who worked with foreign militaries.
One former translator for U.K. troops who lives there now reports that Taliban soldiers told his father-in-law to call him and demand that he return, but they would cut his head off if he did. They fled the area after soldiers returned and threatened to kidnap family members if his father-in-law didn’t cooperate.
Political instability is a genuine and dangerous situation. All the things people generally expect to be available for stability suddenly become questionable. Local security systems, access to food and medicine, the ability to work, and the ability to obtain an education become threatened or blocked.
Personal survival becomes a day-to-day challenge in such environments, which makes it impossible to expect anyone involved to be able to prepare regular papers for immigration or be able to follow typical governmental processes.
Often, affected people are practically in refugee status, trying to avoid being killed and having nowhere else safe to go. The lucky ones can rely temporarily on help from friends or relatives, but they have no permanent basis for starting over again.
This is the fundamental reason why a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program is in place as a means of emergency access to safety.
What is an SIV?
The SIV visa is a special status authorization for immigration into the U.S. The SIV process allows for an expedited entry that doesn’t have the typical review and waiting time as the normal immigration process.
Instead, the SIV process allows for those who have helped U.S. programs and forces in Afghanistan to accomplish their missions. Given the heightened security concerns for such persons now in the country, the SIV visa allows for quick emigration for such persons and their families.
Essentially, it provides the protection needed that otherwise could mean their being threatened, tortured, or killed for past work. It’s important to note that the SIV process is not open-ended. It has visa requirements that still need to be met for successful entry.
The difference in the SIV status versus normal immigration is the speed at which the program processes a related application compared to a normal entry request.
How to Get a Special Immigrant Visa for Afghan Refugees
Thousands of Visas are Available, but Applicants Must Go Through the Process.
The Federal Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act was enacted in July 2021 and has allowed 34,500 visas to be allocated since December 2014, according to the U.S. Department of State. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 added another 4,000 slots for 38,500 visas.
The program will end when all visas are issued, but the limit doesn’t include the applicant’s spouse and unmarried children younger than 21. The person must apply no later than December 31, 2023, assuming the number of visas hasn’t been exhausted.
Section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 authorizes issuing SIVs to Afghan nationals if they meet its requirements. They must have been employed in Afghanistan by or on behalf of the U.S. government or by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) or a successor mission.
What is the SIV Process?
If they worked for the ISAF or a successor, they would have had to have:
- Served as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel
- While traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF or
- Performed activities for the U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF
- For a minimum of one year at some point between October 7, 2001 and December 23, 2023 and have
- Experienced or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat because of this employment.
The applicant must prove they provided “faithful and valuable service” to the U.S. government, ISAF, or a successor mission. This needs to be documented in a positive letter of recommendation or evaluation from:
- A senior supervisor, or
- The person currently occupying that position, or
- A more senior person if the senior supervisor left the employer or Afghanistan.
Previously, an applicant needed to fill out an I-360 petition form and submit it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Now, since July 2022, new applications only need a Chief of Mission DS-157 application approved by the U.S. Secretary of State.
This program is separate from another SIV program allowing some Iraqi and Afghan translators who worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission (COM) authority to come into the country, though a person may qualify for both.
The I-360 petition itself can be challenging to fill out, especially for someone not used to American government forms. Having the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney can make a big difference in avoiding simple mistakes as well as in wording responses correctly so that they are not misinterpreted.
Once documents are filed, they become part of the official record. A misstatement or incorrect information input can easily be the reason for a delay. It’s very important to draft up initial versions first, verify all the information included, double-check the entries again and that there is documentation to prove the same if needed, and then submit when ready.
After an SIV is granted and the individual or family is approved for resettlement, they may get help with transportation, social services, and other benefits, according to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. The process is similar to that for refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).
One of the big challenges then is the simultaneous combination of learning a new language and culture in the U.S., understanding how to obtain basic services, getting help in becoming employed and settled in again, and adapting to the U.S. education system for children.
The necessity to start over again can be immediately overwhelming and confusing. Support groups are critical at this point to help with the transition, especially with laying down basic roots in a new community.
If You Cannot Get an SIV for Afghan Translators, There May be Another Option
Translators May Get Priority as Refugees
Under USRAP, Afghans who don’t qualify for an SIV may enter the U.S. as refugees because the Department of State made them a P-2 priority in August. This covers Afghans who lack the required employment or who didn’t work long enough to become eligible.
Those covered include those who work or worked:
- As locally-employed interpreters/translators for the U.S. Government, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or Resolute Support
- For a U.S.-funded program or project supported by a U.S. government grant or cooperative agreement
- For a U.S.-based media organization or non-governmental organization.
Afghans and their spouses and children of any age, married or unmarried, can be referred to the P-2 program by a U.S. government agency.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and media organizations not funded by the U.S. government but headquartered in the U.S. can refer Afghans to the program by their most senior U.S. citizen employee.
Get an SIV for Afghan Translators with the Help of Carman Fullerton
A Kentucky visa lawyer at Carman Fullerton can help with all types of visas, including an SIV, or guide you through the refugee application process. Afghanistan is a violent and unsettled place, and we understand you want to help someone who truly needs it.
We know this person is close to you, and that their future and that of their family is at risk. They must receive effective legal representation to get the best chances of success. We help immigrants resolve complex immigration legal matters.
Contact a Carman Fullerton visa attorney at (859) 971-0060 for an initial consultation so we can talk about your situation. We value immigrants, and we are here to serve you.
Attorney Kirby J. Fullerton
Mr. Fullerton’s practice is focused on immigration law. He speaks Spanish, and represents clients in cases before the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He began his career practicing criminal defense, and understands how matters in criminal courts can affect a client’s immigration status. [Attorney Bio]