Afghan SIV Program Needs Congressional Action

Medical Screening Camp Buehring

The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program requires regular reauthorization and additional visas from Congress. There will soon be a SIV application backlog that exceeds the number of remaining visas which, at current processing rates, will be exhausted by the end of Fiscal Year 2024 (September 30th). The Afghan SIV program was created in 2009 to give Afghans who served as interpreters for the U.S. military a path to escape Taliban threats to their lives and resettle in the U.S.

The Numbers. According to the Department of State there are approximately 7,000 Afghan SIV visas remaining (as of March 1, 2024). There are currently 12,000 applicants who have received Chief of Mission (COM) approval and are awaiting visa interviews and another 8,000 have COM approval and are collecting the necessary documents to become interview ready. This means that approximately 20,000 principal applicants will soon require visas. There are an additional 60,000 principal applicants who are undergoing COM review. According to the State Department, roughly 37% of cases at COM review receive approval. Since 2021, application processing has increased from 700 visas issued in an entire year to roughly 1,000 visas per month.

Action Needed. Congress is currently (mid-March 2024) working on bills to fund the government before funding runs out on March 22, 2024. Advocates for our Afghan allies are asking Members of Congress to include 20,000 additional visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program in the FY2024 funding package. This will allow additional at-risk Afghans to seek legal permanent residence in the United States and ensure a pathway to safety for the Afghan allies left behind. The specific bill under consideration by Congress is the FY2024 State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) appropriations bill.

Congressional Support. One of the Senators leading the effort in Congress is Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. On March 14, 2024, she sent a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership (Schumer and McConnell) urging that the State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) appropriations bill include 20,000 additional visas. The letter was signed by several Republican and Democrat Senators.

Take Action! Those who support the inclusion of 20,000 additional Afghan SIVs in the upcoming Congressional legislation can send a note to their elected representatives in Congress. The advocacy group Human Rights First has made this easy – providing a form letter that will automatically send your letter (via email) to your elected representatives. The link for sending the letter is here.


Photo: An Afghan family walks toward a medical screening station while in-processing at Camp Buehring, Kuwait in 2021. (U.S. Army Photo by 1st Lt. James Mason).

For more information on the need for 20,000 more visas read a report by #AfghanEvac published March 2024. (PDF, 3 pages)