We are excited to share some very important news for Afghan nationals. On June 14, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new discretionary powers providing relief to certain Afghan nationals, who do not pose national or public safety risks to the United States.
The Secretary of Homeland Security and Secretary of State, have carved out 3 new exemptions which can be applied for on a case-by-case basis, to ensure individuals who would otherwise be eligible for the benefit or protection they are seeking are not automatically denied.
According to the announcement, Afghan nationals will be eligible only if they have undergone rigorous screening and vetting and are individually determined to not pose a risk to national security or public safety. The announcement further states that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, have exercised their exemption authority over 30 times previously, thus ensuring deserving individuals are not inadvertently subject to terrorism-related bars to admission and are eligible for protection in the United States. These new exemptions are expected to welcome thousands more Afghan nationals in the coming months.
Who may apply under these new exemptions?
There are three categories of applicants who may qualify for immigration benefits under these new exemptions. They are as follows:
- Afghans who supported U.S. military interests, specifically Afghan allies who fought or otherwise supported those who fought in the resistance movement against the Taliban and Afghans who took part in the conflict against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
- This could include individuals who fought alongside, or with assistance from, U.S. government entities, the United Nations, or the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or successor Force. It also includes individuals who supported U.S. interests and participated in the resistance movement to the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan between December 24, 1979 and April 28, 1992.
- This exemption specifically does not include individuals who targeted non-combatants or U.S. interests, committed certain types of human rights abuses or violations, or acted on behalf of a designated terrorist organization.
- Individuals employed as civil servants in Afghanistan at any time from September 27, 1996 to December 22, 2001 or after August 15, 2021.
- This could include teachers, professors, postal workers, doctors, and engineers, among others. Some civil servants held these positions prior to the Taliban announcing their so-called “interim government” and continued in their roles due to pressure, intimidation, or other hardship. In other instances, individuals used their positions to mitigate the repressive actions of the Taliban, often at great personal risk.
- This exemption does not include individuals who held high-level positions, worked for certain ministries, or directly assisted violent Taliban activities or activities in which the individual’s civil service was motivated by an allegiance to the Taliban.
- Individuals who provided insignificant or certain limited material support to a designated terrorist organization.
- This could apply in limited circumstances where the support is incidental to a routine social or commercial transaction; incidental to certain humanitarian assistance; provided in response to a reasonably perceived threat of physical or economic harm, restraint, or serious harassment; and where the support provided is considered minimal and inconsequential.
- Examples could include paying a small amount to pass through a Taliban checkpoint to flee Afghanistan; paying the Taliban for utilities such as electricity or the telephone; serving the Taliban at one’s place of business when to refuse would jeopardize one’s livelihood; or paying a fee to obtain a passport or other identity documents necessary to flee Afghanistan when the Taliban controlled the offices providing those services.
- Due to the Taliban’s presence and control of entities, roads, and utilities, many individuals who lived in Afghanistan needed to interact with the Taliban in ways that, absent such an exemption, render them inadmissible to the United States under U.S. law.
- This exemption does not include individuals who share the goals or ideology of the Taliban, provided preferential treatment to them, or who intended to support the Taliban through their activities.
What procedures are being put in place to ensure safety checks are conducted?
All Afghans, including those considered for one of these exemptions, will be subject to a multi-layered, rigorous screening and vetting process conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and additional intelligence community partners.
Only individuals who clear these comprehensive security checks can be considered for an exemption. Adjudicating officers will apply exemptions on a case-by-case and discretionary basis, only after determining the applicant is eligible for the benefit sought, meets the criteria for the exemption, represents no danger to the safety and security of the United States, and merits the exemption in the totality of the circumstances.
Who should take advantage of this relief?
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas, indicated that these exemptions are designed for “Doctors, teachers, engineers, and other Afghans, including those who bravely and loyally supported U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan at great risk to their safety.”
Where can I find more information about this recent development?
In the coming weeks we expect further resources and guidance to be published relating to these exemptions.
In addition, we provide the following information for your benefit.
- Afghanistan Inquiries
- Consular Services to the Afghans Living in the United States. Please reach out to Afghan Embassy and Consulates in Canada: https://www.ottawa.mfa.af/news/2022-04-20-14-44-43.html
- State Department – Consular Affairs Afghanistan Call Center 833-741-2777 or 606-260-4379
Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.
- DHS and DOS Announce Exemptions Allowing Eligible Afghans to Qualify for Protection and Immigration Benefits
- DHS Announcement
- Afghan Embassy and Consulates in Canada – Assistance for Afghans in the U.S.A
- Afghanistan Resources
- July 2022 Visa Bulletin
- Adjustment of Status Filing Dates from Visa Bulletin
- USCIS Processing Times
- Chats with Charlie YouTube Channel
- Blog Post: Rescission of P.P. 10014
- Blog Post: What is happening with the EB-5 Regional Center Program?
- Immigrant Visa Backlog Report
- DOS Visa Services Operating Status Update
- ImmigrationU Membership
- Success stories
- Youtube channel
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