U.S. Immigration and Visas

Learn about U.S. visa and immigration options.

Overview of Visas and Alternative Immigration Options

Lessons Learned from Visa Programs for Afghans - Current overview of the problems involved with the various visa programs. To read more about visa categories and criteria, see here.

Special Immigrant Visas

[Updated 9 September 2021]

What is a SIV?

This is a 14-step process designed for translators and others who served with US/ISAF forces for a minimum of two years. It grants them refugee status in the U.S., meaning they can come here and through a refugee resettlement programs, receive the support and benefits available to refugees. The standards for SIV eligibility are very high and the process is long and confusing, usually taking several years. Some applicants are refused SIV eligibility because they allegedly didn't show enough proof of having worked for the U.S. government. Many applicants are deemed ineligible for any number of inexplicable reasons, despite having served honorably as translators or in other positions alongside U.S. forces. In most cases, the applicant needs to go back and forth with the State Department to provide additional documentation of their employment with the U.S. Government and/or to appeal State's decision on their eligibility.

On July 30, 2021, President Biden signed into law the Shaheen-Ernst Bill, which increased the number of SIVs that can be issued; changed the employment requirement for eligibility from two years to one year; postpones the required medical exam until the applicant and their family have arrived in the United States; removes the “sensitive and trusted” requirement for International Security Assistance Force and Resolute Support employment; and provides for Special Immigrant status for certain surviving spouses and children of murdered applicants.

See the latest details and metrics on the SIV program from The Congressional Research Service's June 2021 report.

Understanding the SIV Process & Who to Contact
[Updated 2 November 2021]

Requirements: 12 months of employment by/on behalf of USG or ISAF.

Information on applying for an SIV

No One Left Behind (NOLB) is the only nationwide nonprofit committed to ensuring that America keeps its promise to our allies and their families who risked their lives for our freedom. They are working to keep our nation’s promise by trying to fix the State Department’s 14-step SIV process by providing emergency financial aid and used vehicles to newly-arrived interpreters. Last year we helped 636 SIV families in 93 cities in 20 states with over $430,000, but for every family we could help, we had 4 more waiting.

SIV Frequently Asked Questions in English, Dari, and Pashto

Additional Assistance for Afghans with Pending SIV Applications

[Updated 27 August 2021]

The U.S. Department of Defense and the State Department are building lists of Afghans with pending or accepted SIVs who were not able to evacuate the country before the August 31st withdrawal of U.S. forces. There will be a legitimate effort made to contact those individuals about future evacuation options, should they emerge. If your party has not already registered for repatriation assistance, they should do so here.

In addition, the U.S. Departments of Defense and State are building lists of Afghans with pending or accepted SIVs, P1s, or P2s who were not able to evacuate the country before the withdrawal of U.S. forces. There will be a legitimate effort made to contact those individuals about future evacuation options, should they emerge.

The email helpme@JDI.socom.mil is no longer being monitored. Please direct all information to the State at AfghanistanACS@state.gov, attach their SIV documentation, scans of passports and/or national IDs for each member of the party, and this spreadsheet (guidance for the spreadsheet here) completed with the information for all members of their party.1-888-407-4747 (US/Canada) or +1-202-501-4444 (overseas).

USRAP P1 and P2 Referrals

[Updated 22 August 2021]

Priority 1 Referrals (P1)

This includes individuals referred by the US Embassy, UNHCR, or designated NGO for resettlement, with special consideration for those under especially severe threats, including women and girls, human rights defenders, journalists, and other civil society actors. Contact the US State Department office managing this at ATF-TF3@state.gov and (202) 485-1627.

This includes “groups of special concern” for resettlement. Eligible Afghans include interpreters who do not meet requirements for the SIV; anyone who has worked for US agencies or organizations funded by US agencies; and anyone working in media organizations. Applicants for P2 are expected to go to a third country for processing of this visa. Contact the US State Department office managing this at ATF-TF3@state.gov and +1-(202) 485-1627.

Additional information and resources for P2 applicants can be found on the Refugee Processing Center's website

Steps to refer an Afghan for a P2 Referral

1.) Fill out the following forms:

A.) Employment verification

Note: The form says it should be filled by the most senior American from the project.

B.) Referral Form

2.) Gather supporting documentation:

You’ll need to get digital copies of all of the following that are available: national IDs, passports, documents supporting his claim to have been a US contractor, documents establishing relationships with direct dependents such as birth and marriage certs, etc to submit with this referral.

3.) Email the packet to the referral program:

When you have all of that gathered, send it to Usarapafghanreferrals@state.gov. You will receive a reply confirming that you sent it to the correct address shortly after submitting. This email contains additional information on the process and I’ve pasted the verbiage below for your reference.

Humanitarian Parole (not a visa)

[Updated 10 September 2021]

For those who don’t already have another visa application pending, this is a newly opened option for people who need to leave Afghanistan (or a third country they may have fled to) due to an urgent threat to their life. Sponsors (either individuals or an organization) are needed in order for Afghans to apply.

Humanitarian parole is NOT a visa. It grants "permission to enter and remain temporarily in the United States.” Parole does not confer on individuals who receive it any formal immigration status. After receiving parole status and once they arrive in the U.S, they would need to apply for an adjustment of status that would allow them to stay in the country on a more permanent basis.

Here is the link to the forms and procedure to apply: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/explore-my-options/humanitarian-parole. Note that the application and documentation need to be physically mailed in. There is no online submission option.

Penn State Law and the Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic published this resource, Humanitarian Parole for Afghan Nationals.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association has shared a number of resources on applying for humanitarian parole -- see some examples below and check their constantly updated resource page for Immigration Lawyers Assisting Afghan Clients.

AILA Resources for Assisting Afghan Clients

Afghan Humanitarian Parole Guide

Legal Assistance & Visa Application Resources

[Updated 2 November 2021]

Trusted Organizations & Initiatives

Project: Afghan Legal Assistance (PALA): PALA helps Human Rights First match Afghans seeking legal assistance in the US (whether physically in the United States or abroad) with pro bono legal assistance providers.

Input information for any Afghan person seeking legal assistance in the United States.

Are you an immigration attorney? Register here to volunteer to provide legal assistance.

IRAP Legal Resources for Afghans: See some frequently asked questions and learn more about getting help with your visa application.

Pars Equality Center: Request pro-bono (free) legal help with your visa application.

University of Pennsylvania Center for Governance and Markets Afghan Assistance Form: Request free help with SIV or P2 visas.

Association of Wartime Allies: Contact them with your SIV and P2 visa questions, and get in their closed Facebook group for real-time information on what is happening.

No One Left Behind: Read their online explainers of the SIV process and resources to help you resettle in the US. Sign up for their email list or reach out to them to request evacuation assistance.

Human Rights First: Read their info relevant to what is happening now, and check out their pages on protecting yourself from Taliban searching you both in person and targeting you online.

Other Resources

Afghanistan Evacuation Resource Guide: Step-by-step guide for evacuation assistance.

U.S. Based Afghanistan Evacuation Resources: Resources for Afghans eligible for U.S. visas (SIV, P1, P2, and Humanitarian Parole).