Over 840,000 Afghan Applicants for Crucial U.S. Resettlement Program Remain in Afghanistan, According to Report

by Chloe Baker
Afghan resettlement program

In excess of 840,000 Afghan nationals, who have applied to a U.S. resettlement program designed to assist those who contributed to the American military engagement in Afghanistan, continue to await their fate in the country, says a recently released report. The report, detailing the challenges that continue to plague this initiative aimed at supporting America’s allies during its twenty-year conflict in Afghanistan, was published on Thursday by the Inspector General of the U.S. State Department.

The report elaborates on the various measures undertaken by the State Department to streamline the processing of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Afghans. However, the document also highlights that challenges persist, even two years after the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the subsequent resurgence of Taliban rule.

Originally initiated in 2009, the visa program was designed to aid Afghans who cooperated closely with U.S. forces and were thereby exposed to considerable risk. An analogous program exists for Iraqi nationals. Both initiatives have been subject to criticism for the slow pace of application processing, thereby leaving applicants in a precarious situation.

Following the U.S. exit from Afghanistan, there has been a dramatic surge in the number of SIV applicants. The report indicates that the figure stood at just under 30,000 in October 2021, but swelled to approximately 155,000 by December 2022. This does not account for the family members who are also eligible to resettle if the primary application is granted approval.

As of April this year, the State Department estimates that over 840,000 SIV applicants and their dependents continue to reside in Afghanistan, as per the report. It is important to note that not every applicant receives approval; around 50% are found ineligible during the initial stages of the vetting process, according to the State Department.

Since the inception of the Biden administration in January 2021 until August 1 of the current year, nearly 34,000 visas have been issued to eligible applicants and their family members, marking a significant uptick compared to previous years, says the State Department.

Despite additional staffing measures, coordination with the Pentagon for employment verification, and a streamlining of application steps, the report stresses that further action is warranted. It draws attention to the frequent turnover and vacancies in key positions responsible for overseeing the SIV application process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Afghan resettlement program

What is the main focus of the recently released State Department report?

The report primarily focuses on the U.S. resettlement program designed for Afghans who have assisted the U.S. military during its two-decade-long engagement in Afghanistan. It discusses the challenges and improvements related to the Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) process for these Afghan nationals.

How many Afghans have applied to the U.S. resettlement program and are still awaiting in Afghanistan?

As of April of the current year, more than 840,000 Afghan nationals who have applied for the resettlement program and their dependents remain in Afghanistan.

When was the Special Immigrant Visa program initiated and what is its purpose?

The Special Immigrant Visa program was initiated in 2009 to assist Afghans who worked closely with American forces and faced significant risks for doing so.

How many visas have been issued since the start of the Biden administration?

From January 2021 to August 1 of the current year, nearly 34,000 visas have been issued to applicants and their family members, which marks a substantial increase from previous years.

Have there been any improvements in the visa processing system?

Yes, the State Department has taken measures to improve the visa processing system, including hiring more staff, coordinating with the Pentagon for employment verification, and streamlining certain application requirements.

What challenges still remain in the visa application process?

Despite improvements, challenges persist including slow processing times, a significant number of applicants found ineligible, and frequent turnover in key positions overseeing the visa process.

Has the number of applicants changed since the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan?

Yes, there has been a significant increase in the number of applicants since the U.S. withdrawal. The number went from just under 30,000 in October 2021 to approximately 155,000 by December 2022.

What percentage of applicants are typically found ineligible during the vetting process?

About 50% of the applicants are found to be ineligible when their applications undergo initial scrutiny, according to the State Department.

More about Afghan resettlement program

  • U.S. State Department Report on Afghan SIV Program
  • Overview of Special Immigrant Visas
  • U.S. Military Withdrawal from Afghanistan: A Timeline
  • Biden Administration’s Immigration Policies
  • Statistics on Afghan SIV Applicants
  • The U.S.-Afghanistan Relationship: A Historical Context
  • Criticisms and Challenges of U.S. Resettlement Programs

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Sara Johnson September 2, 2023 - 6:41 am

can’t believe we are two years post-withdrawal and still so many challenges remain. What’s the point of initiating programs if we can’t execute them efficiently?

Emily Davis September 2, 2023 - 8:44 am

The part about 50% not qualifying is pretty surprising. Makes you wonder what the vetting process is actually like.

Timothy Brown September 2, 2023 - 8:58 am

The numbers have skyrocketed since the US left. Clearly shows the urgency and desperation among the Afghans. This needs to be a priority.

John Smith September 2, 2023 - 9:44 am

Wow, over 840k still waiting? That’s a huge number. The system’s definitely got some kinks to work out.

Robert Lee September 2, 2023 - 10:16 am

Great to hear about the Biden admin stepping up the visa count but gotta say, still a lot more work to be done.

Laura King September 2, 2023 - 11:09 am

Streamlining the process is good, but whats the point if key positions keep turning over? seems like a major flaw in the system to me.

Mike Williams September 2, 2023 - 12:00 pm

Coordination with Pentagon, huh? Well, it’s about time. Hope they can speed things up, lives are at stake.


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