U.S. Simplifies Application Process For Afghan Special Immigrant Visa

On July 18th, a joint statement by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced that the United States would simplify the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (S.I.V.) process. Beginning that week, the process was shortened to a single form. Previously, applicants were required to send a separate petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of a 14-step process. With the removal of this step, the process will be completed entirely under the U.S. Department of State.

“This new streamlined process, which is part of our ongoing efforts to make the program more efficient, will help to eliminate barriers for applicants and reduce application times,” Blinken and Mayorkas said.

Congress originally created the S.I.V. process in 2009 to offer safety to Afghans helping with U.S. troops as interpreters, translators, and in other roles. After the country’s longest war, the United States left Afghanistan and completed its withdrawal of troops in 2021. In the process it also assisted in evacuating over 130,000 Afghans – many hoping to move to the United States. Eligibility for S.I.V. (“green card”) status is awarded to Afghans who assisted the United States and its allies in the war and who would be at risk if they continued to stay in Afghanistan.

Previously, the entire application process for a special immigration visa took about three years, and applicants were required to have received their visas before they could move into the United States. According to Voice of America, a senior U.S. official estimated that simplifying the administrative work necessary to grant a visa will “shave about a month off of the adjudication time … or potentially more.” But “more importantly,” the official said, the single form will simplify things on the other side of the desk. “It’ll be a lot easier for the applicants as well.”

Officials from the Biden Administration noted that there were more than 74,000 applicants in the S.I.V. pipeline at the time of the announcement.

Blinken and Mayorkas began their speech by declaring, “The United States continues to demonstrate its commitment to the thousands of brave Afghans who stood side-by-side with us over the course of the past two decades.” This is a statement the U.S. has been re-affirming for years. Hopefully, this new application process will make it easier to deliver safety to those who have been promised refuge.