Taliban Takeover & Afghan Refugees: What You Need to Know
The Taliban has regained control of Afghanistan. As a result, thousands of Afghanistan citizens are fleeing for their lives out of fear that the Taliban will reimpose harsh conditions or retaliate against those who worked with the US. For over 40 years, Afghans have suffered conflict, natural disasters, chronic poverty, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, women were prohibited from getting an education, working outside of their homes, and going outside without a male relative, among other tight restrictions. The Taliban also banned music and brutally beat or killed thieves and adulterers during their initial reign.
Fast-forward to August 2021, the Taliban has taken over the country again. What does this mean for Afghan refugees?
While there are no clear answers as to where all Afghan refugees will go, what we do know is that the Biden administration is working to secure deals to temporarily house at-risk Afghans who worked for the US government, four U.S. officials told Reuters. On August 12th, US officials announced that thousands of Afghans who worked with the US would be temporarily sent to Qatar so US personnel can accelerate the application process for their Special Immigrant Visas (SIV).
What Are Special Immigrant Visas (SIV)?
A special immigrant is a foreign national who qualifies for a Green Card (permanent residence) after meeting certain criteria. Depending on the classification, an employer or the immigrant must file a petition with USCIS. An immigrant may be eligible for an employment-based, fourth preference (EB-4) visa if they are:
- Religious workers
- Special Immigrant Juveniles
- Certain broadcasters
- Certain retired officers or employees of a G-4 international organization or NATO-6 civilian employees and their family members
- Certain employees of the US government who are abroad and their family members
- Members of the US armed forces
- Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone government employees
- Certain physicians licensed and practicing medicine in a US state as of Jan. 9, 1978
- Afghan or Iraqi translators or interpreters
- Iraqis who were employed by or on behalf of the US government
- Afghans who were employed by the US government or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
In this case, the United States is working to protect US-affiliated Afghans, such as interpreters and international security assistants, from the Taliban while swiftly processing their SIV applications.
According to Reuters, about 1,200 Afghans have been evacuated to the US and thousands more are expected to arrive in the coming weeks. Hundreds of Afghan refugees are going to the Fort Lee military base in Virginia to finalize the SIV application process and become lawful permanent residents. In addition, the Defense Department is working to resettle thousands of Afghan refugees on other US military bases, including Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Bliss in Texas.
The efforts to protect Afghan refugees are not easy, and right now, the US is being selective as to who can obtain refuge in our country. Many Afghans who worked for or otherwise helped the US government have been able to complete their SIV application process in Virginia, while others are being relocated to other military installations in the US. Despite these efforts, much work has yet to be done.
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This humanitarian crisis may trigger other protections for Afghans, such as asylum or Temporary Protected Status, although, US officials are still figuring out how to streamline the SIV application process for thousands of Afghan refugees who aided the US. This is a situation filled with many uncertainties. However, not all hope is lost.
Our lawyer is happy to clarify any confusions you may have about how this crisis impacts your immigration status. Given this developing situation, we may not have all the answers to your questions but can surely help you understand your legal immigration options and next steps. We are proud to help people in your position get some peace of mind in difficult times, therefore, please don’t hesitate to discuss your immigration concerns with our attorney today.