More Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) and more application time
On Thursday, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, and Roger Wicker introduced a new bill in the Senate that would bring stability to the visa program for Afghans who helped the U.S. military by increasing the number of visas and extending the program for five years.
The bill also attempts to reduce the backlog of visa applications and streamline the application process by implementing various.
Last week Sen. Jeanne Shaheen stated, “Afghanistan might not be on the front pages anymore, but the United States cannot forget about the promise we made to our Afghan allies who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans throughout 20 years of war.”
Sen. Jeanne further said that Afghan allies held up their end of the deal and the U.S. must do the same.
Based on the Military news website a companion version of the bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo.
For years, the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program has faced persistent challenges, including lengthy processing delays and backlogs. However, these issues reached a critical point in 2021 when the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan. Afghans who had collaborated with the U.S. were left concerned about potential targeting by the Taliban, prompting a rush to secure spots on evacuation flights. Although the U.S. military evacuated tens of thousands of Afghans during this period, only a small portion consisted of SIV applicants or visa holders.
Tens of thousands of Afghans who may be eligible for Special Immigrant Visa and their family member remain in Afghanistan or are sheltering in neighboring countries of Afghanistan.
Shaheen and Wicker’s bill would authorize the SIV through 2029 and add 20,000 visas, bringing the total number of visas approved to 54,500.
According to the State Department’s most recent quarterly report, nearly 63,000 applicants were awaiting what’s known as the chief of mission approval as of the end of 2022, while other about 77,000 applicants started the application process.
Despite the bipartisan support for this visa program, it has faced opposition from some Republicans who are known to be immigration hard-liners. The Republicans have also stalled the Afghan Adjustment Act which is another related but separate bill that would help evacuated Afghan immigrants to become legal permanent residents in the United States.
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