What Is Humanitarian Parole as It Relates to Afghan Immigrants Seeking Safety in the U.S.?
Humanitarian parole is a process applied for through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If granted, the government allows you to come into the country temporarily for humanitarian reasons. This status is typically granted for a year, but oftentimes for two if requested. Humanitarian parole is a broad catch-all category of people that do not have eligibility or have yet to apply for any kind of permanent status to reside in the United States.
Is Asylum Available to Refugees Fleeing or Those Who Have Fled Afghanistan?
People fleeing Afghanistan can apply for asylum or refugee status, but which one you apply for depends on where you are at the time of application. If you are already in the United States, you can apply for asylum. If you are not in the United States, you must apply for refugee status. If applying for asylum, you typically have one year, from your time of arrival in the country, to apply.
These statuses should be available for most people that have fled Afghanistan. It does depend on having a reasonable fear of persecution based on
- political opinion, or
- belonging to a particular social group.
People who are leaving because they are afraid of the Taliban typically will meet those qualifications in one way or another. These statuses also require you to not have certain types of criminal records or other negative history, such as having persecuted people yourself.
For people with a strong case for asylum, the fastest way to apply is probably to get out of Afghanistan and present themselves at the border or airport and request asylum. Oftentimes, they can be paroled into the country and allowed to complete the process of seeking asylum. If you have already been in the U.S. for over a year or close to a year, you need to apply immediately. And if it’s been over a year, you need to explain what has changed in your situation that justifies extending the deadline. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan would probably qualify as the required change in circumstances, but you would need to apply within a year of the takeover, at the absolute latest.
For people fleeing Afghanistan that are not already in the U.S., they need to apply for refugee status through the United Nations (UN) or through other channels if referred by the US government, media, or nonprofits. Applying as a refugee can be a slow process. They may not arrive in the United States at all, as the UN decides which country to send them to, and it can be any country is a safe location to be sent to.
Do You Have Any Idea of How Many Afghans Have Been Granted Visas and How Many Are in Waiting?
I am not positive about the exact numbers of Afghans seeking visas to the U.S. There is a program for Iraqis, similar to the Special Immigration Visa, that has seen a lot of problems. It’s estimated that there were 100,000 people eligible under that program and only 2,000 people got Special Immigration Visas. I would imagine Afghanistan is going to have similar problems unless the government takes serious action to fix the process.
Before the Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan, Did the Visa Program Work as Intended?
Before the Taliban takeover, you were able to apply for a Special Immigration Visa and eventually get approved if you were patient enough. Like all immigration processes, it was a long bureaucratic process. It was slower than it should have been, especially for people that are facing danger as a result of helping the United States.
Has the Biden Administration Done Something Worth Mentioning Concerning Afghan Refugees?
The administration claims to have streamlined the Special Immigration Visa process, but we have yet to see the results of that. They were arranging flights for people fleeing Afghanistan, but it is unclear if that will continue. Also, the Department of Defense has its own ability to apply for people to get humanitarian parole, but they must choose to sponsor you. This may be an option if you have connections in the DOD.
Outside the government, there are groups of people that are trying to help these refugees. There are some attorneys providing pro bono help and volunteers are working to provide supplies and resettlement assistance.
Additional Information on Afghan Refugees
If you are in Afghanistan, you should focus on getting out first, whether or not you have an immigration status. Humanitarian parole is broadly available; I think most people fleeing Afghanistan should eventually be able to qualify for this.
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