BREAKING: White House Signs into Law Supplemental Security Bill, Including Shaheen-Ernst Bill to Protect Afghan Allies through SIV Program

July 30, 2021

(Washington, DC) – Today, the White House signed into law key provisions from the Afghan Allies Protection Act, a bill led by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, and Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), as part of the supplemental security spending measure. Their legislation helps protect the Afghan civilians who risked their lives to support the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Specifically, the measure would increase the number of authorized visas by 8,000, clear bureaucratic hurdles while maintaining the program’s integrity and improve the program’s efficiency ahead of the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) were original cosponsors on the bill.

“Today, President Biden affirmed that the U.S. stands by its promise to Afghan allies by signing into law language from my bill to strengthen the SIV program. I’ve worked on this in Congress for years to protect the Afghan partners who put their lives on the line in service of the U.S. mission and their country. This legislation becoming law is significant: it will help clear a path to safety for thousands,” said Shaheen. “I’d also like to recognize my original partner on this effort: John McCain. The unified response in the Senate and House, across party lines, is a testament to his legacy and his role as a champion of this issue. I was honored to partner with him then and I appreciate Senator Ernst’s commitment now to see this through together. To the Afghan partners who face imminent danger from the Taliban – the U.S. stands with you and will make every effort to ensure your safety in thanks for your service. We’re running against the clock, so now we must act swiftly to ensure our allies are not left behind.” 

“The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program was created to provide a well-vetted pathway to safety for the many Afghan civilians who have stepped up to assist the U.S. during the War on Terror. Given the Biden Administration’s haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan, we must now fulfill our commitment to those who put themselves in harm’s way by ensuring the program has the capacity to fully process and help bring these individuals to safety. I’m grateful Democrats and Republicans came together to do exactly that and to get this bill signed into law,” said Ernst.

“With the President’s signature, our country is upholding its commitment to aid the Afghans who supported our military and diplomatic mission after September 11, 2001,” said Durbin. “I’m proud to have been part of this effort, and I’m glad my colleagues recognized the importance of this legislation. On a bipartisan basis, we are ensuring our allies and their families are safe and have a chance to build a life in the United States.”

The legislation would provide immediate improvements and strengthen efficiency of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, including by:     

  • Increasing the number of authorized visas;     
  • Changing the employment requirement for eligibility from two years to one year;     
  • Postponing the required medical exam until the applicant and their family have arrived in the United States;      
  • Removing the “sensitive and trusted” requirement for International Security Assistance Force and Resolute Support employment; and     
  • Providing for Special Immigrant status for certain surviving spouses and children of murdered applicants.     

Full text of the legislation is available here.     

Senator Shaheen has helped lead the bipartisan effort in the Senate to strengthen the SIV program and protect Afghan allies who risked their lives to support the U.S. mission. She historically partnered with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on this priority. In the fiscal year 2021 government funding legislation that was signed into law, Senator Shaheen secured an additional 4,000 Afghan SIVs. Recently, she participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to discuss the urgent need to protect Afghan allies by bolstering the SIV program.