Following the U.S. exit from Afghanistan, the Taliban takeover, and the resulting crisis and evacuation, affected HR professionals, and Afghan and other employees, have been scrambling to address the ensuing resettlement and immigration issues. Approximately 70,000 Afghans have arrived in the United States as part of Operation Allies Welcome, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said.
DHS is the lead federal agency coordinating Operation Allies Welcome, an ongoing effort to resettle Afghans, including those who worked on behalf of the United States. Following the “biggest airlift in U.S. history,” DHS paroled many Afghan nationals into the United States on a case-by-case basis. Afghan nationals can also apply for immigration benefits such as Afghan special immigrant status, lawful permanent residence, and asylum, the agency noted.
Below are tips, updates, and resources that may be helpful.
Tips for HR Professionals
Afghan employees will be suffering, and it’s understandable that HR professionals will want to help however they can. Other employees also may find it difficult to cope with the ongoing bad news, or be affected in other ways. HR professionals don’t need to just sit idly by. Some things to do include:
- Decide what type of support your company can offer and deliver. For example, are counseling, bereavement support, mental health benefits, and life guidance services covered and available, such as through an employee assistance program? Can HR offer employees practical help in their area? Can the company offer flexible working hours and time off, relaxed mobile phone policies, unpaid holidays or paid special leave, or adjusted deadlines through managers?
- Consider nontraditional skills when hiring and recruiting, along with offering internships and apprenticeships, and special hiring initiatives for Afghan refugees and those with Special Immigrant Visas.
- Managers/supervisors can be enlisted to take the lead in talking with their teams and offering targeted flexibilities or providing personalized support if the need arises.
- Encourage affected employees to discuss their thoughts, respect others, and ask for support if they want it. Acknowledge the crisis and employees’ need to prioritize related personal or family issues.
- Help with evacuations and immediate support for employees still in Afghanistan or the region, and those displaced by the U.S. exit and Taliban takeover. For example, can your company offer relocation or financial support for affected employees?
- Offer tips to help keep your employees safe if they need to move or cross a border. The Department of State recommends carrying extra batteries and power banks for mobile phones; bringing enough food and water for at least two days; stocking up on diapers and baby food, if applicable; bringing blankets, sleeping bags, and warm clothes; bringing pet food, if applicable; bringing paper copies of important documents and not relying solely on cell phones and electronic devices; and booking accommodations before arrival if possible.
- Have your company consider making a contribution or a company-matching pledge to contribute to a humanitarian organization, and communicate that to employees.
The information below provides additional details that may be of help in particular situations.
Humanitarian Parole and Other Relief
- Many Afghans were brought to the United States through temporary humanitarian parole or Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). A total of 34,500 SIVs have been allocated since late 2014, including an additional 8,000 authorized in July 2021. SIVs are intended for Afghans who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government.
- Afghanistan has not yet been designated for Temporary Protected Status, but the Biden administration is considering it. According to reports, the administration also has said that it supports legislation to provide permanent status to Afghans, such as the Afghan Adjustment Act.
- Afghan parolees are to receive the same services as refugees, including reception, placement, and other entitlement programs like food assistance. Allowable services include healthcare, emergency housing, English language classes, job training, and case management. (According to reports, Afghans seeking refugee status are experiencing delays due to the U.S. refugee resettlement program being overwhelmed.)
- Eligible Afghans were those paroled into the United States between July 31, 2021, and September 30, 2022; those paroled into the United States after September 30, 2022; and either the spouse or child of such a parolee or the parent or legal guardian of an unaccompanied child paroled during that period.
- Parolees may apply for work authorization using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, on the basis of their parole. Information on how Afghan parolees and others can work in the United States is available on the USCIS website.
- DHS said it is exempting filing fees and streamline application processing for Afghan nationals paroled into the United States for humanitarian reasons on or after July 30, 2021. DHS said these actions would help facilitate resettlement and streamline the processing of requests for work authorization, green cards, and associated services.
Special Immigrant Visas/Afghan Priority P-2 Program/SAVE
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it is expediting pending Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) petitions for Afghans and spouses and unmarried children under 21. The SIV program prioritizes:
- Interpreters and translators
- U.S. government direct-hire employees
- Contractors with U.S. government installation badges
- Implementing partners (Afghan third-party contractors or subcontractors employed on behalf of U.S. government entities such as USAID)
- All other applicants (U.S. government contractors)
- Information about the SIV process for Afghans employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government or the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is available at https://www.uscis.gov/green-card-for-an-afghan-employed-behalf-us-government
- The first step in obtaining a green card as an Afghan who was employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government, whether the applicant lives inside or outside the United States, is to file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
- Petitioners, beneficiaries, or attorneys of record who have inquiries about a pending petition for Afghan Special Immigrants may call the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Those who are outside the United States can call 212-620-3418 or check Case Status Online.
- Information on the SIV and the P-2 program, in English, Dari, and Pashto is available at https://www.wrapsnet.org/siv-iraqi-syrian-afghan-referrals/. For the P-2 program, those who believe they are eligible, whether or not they are still in Afghanistan, must contact the U.S. government agency, U.S.-based nongovernmental organization, or U.S.-based media organization with which they were affiliated and provide information. The organization/agency can then submit a referral.
- The Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program published supplemental information regarding Afghan special immigrant (SI) lawful permanent residents (LPRs) and parolees. Although some Afghans will continue to be admitted as SI LPRs or provided SI parole, DHS is admitting a third category: SI conditional permanent residents (CPRs). In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is allowing certain Afghans to enter the United States in a fourth category: non-SI parolee.
- SAVE noted that a CPR becomes an LPR after DHS removes the conditions on their LPR admission. When an SI CPR completes a medical examination and USCIS determines they are not medically inadmissible, DHS removes their conditions and they become an SI LPR. Such persons meet the immigration status requirement for public benefits under the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, including refugee resettlement assistance and other benefits available to refugees, SAVE said.
Case-by-Case Immigration Help
- Immigration help is available on a case-by-case basis for those affected by “special situations.” The list of measures includes:
- Changing a nonimmigrant status or extending a nonimmigrant stay for an individual currently in the United States. USCIS said, “If you fail to apply for the extension or change before expiration of your authorized period of admission, we may excuse that if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control”;
- Re-parole of individuals previously granted parole by USCIS;
- Expedited processing of advance parole requests;
- Expedited adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
- Expedited adjudication of petitions or applications, including employment authorization applications, when appropriate;
- Consideration of fee waiver requests due to an inability to pay;
- Flexibility for those who received a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny but were unable to submit evidence or otherwise respond in a timely manner;
- Flexibility if an applicant is unable to appear for a scheduled interview with USCIS;
- Expedited replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card), Employment Authorization Document, or Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record; and
- Rescheduling a biometric services appointment.
Afghans may also consider applying for asylum.
U.S. Citizens in Afghanistan
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul suspended all operations on August 31, 2021. U.S. citizens in Afghanistan in need of routine consular services can contact any U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance, according to the Department of State. U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who seek U.S. government assistance to depart should complete the Repatriation Form or, if unable to access the form, should email complete biographic details and contact information (email and phone number) and U.S. passport number to AfghanistanACS@state.gov.
Contact your WR attorney for advice and help in specific situations.
- “SIV/Iraqi & Syrian P-2/Afghan Referrals,” Refugee Processing Center, Dept. of State, https://www.wrapsnet.org/siv-iraqi-syrian-afghan-referrals/
- Green Card for an Afghan Who Was Employed by or on Behalf of the U.S. Government, USCIS, https://www.uscis.gov/green-card-for-an-afghan-employed-behalf-us-government
- Afghan Special Immigrant Conditional Permanent Resident Status and Non-SI Parolees, USCIS/SAVE, https://www.uscis.gov/save/whats-new/afghan-special-immigrant-conditional-permanent-resident-status-and-non-si-parolees
- Resources for Afghan Allies, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, https://refugees.org/resources-for-afghan-allies/
- Travel and Visas for Afghans, Rep. Elise Stefanik (New York), https://stefanik.house.gov/travel-from-afghanistan
- USCIS TPS page, https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status
- USCIS Special Situations page, https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/special-situations
- Afghanistan Update, USAID, https://www.usaid.gov/afghanistan/2021-update
- Afghanistan Inquiries: U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents, Dept. of State, https://www.state.gov/afghanistan-inquiries/
- “Biden Weighs Temporary Protected Status for Afghans,” The Hill, Feb. 17, 2022, https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/594765-biden-weighs-temporary-protected-status-for-afghan-evacuees