Shaheen Leads Bipartisan Effort to Strengthen SIV Program by Increasing Cap on Visas & Improving Efficiency

June 11, 2021

**Legislation increases authorized number of Afghan Special Immigrant Visas by 20,000 & improves visa processing for those facing danger after supporting U.S.-led missions in Afghanistan**  

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, introduced new bipartisan legislation with Joni Ernst (R-IA), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) to provide immediate improvements to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The legislation would increase the number of authorized visas by 20,000, remove extraneous paperwork requirements and improve the program’s efficiency ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. 

The SIV program has been critical to American national security and the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. It allows the U.S. to fulfill its promise to the Afghans who supported and saved the lives of American service members and diplomatic personnel. The SIV program is the only path to ensuring the safety of Afghan allies that were integral to the U.S. mission. 

“The U.S. cannot renege on its commitment to the Afghans who’ve risked their lives to support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. They must not be abandoned as the U.S. withdraws our troops from Afghanistan and the threat of persecution from the Taliban intensifies. They need our help,” said Shaheen. “The Special Immigrant Visa is a proven and well-vetted pathway to safety for these Afghans, but serious improvements are needed to uphold the integrity and improve the efficiency of the program. Increasing the number of authorized visas and removing cumbersome requirements that leave folks in limbo are essential to provide for those who’ve worked alongside our troops. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort to ensure we fulfill the promise of safety for the brave Afghans whose service has been critical to our missions.”   

“The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program was created with the purpose of providing a well-vetted pathway to safety for the many Afghan civilians that have stepped up to assist our military during the War on Terror. We must fulfill our commitment to those who put themselves in harms’ way by ensuring that this program has the capacity to fully process and help bring these individuals to safety, and that’s what I’m working with Democrats and Republicans to do,” said Ernst. 

“As the U.S. continues to withdraw from Afghanistan, Afghan citizens who have supported the U.S. are more at risk than ever from the Taliban and other violent individuals who may seek retribution,” Wicker said. “This legislation would make important updates to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program to help more vulnerable aides and their families escape before it is too late. The U.S. owes these courageous men and women a debt of gratitude – we cannot leave them behind.” 

“After September 11, 2001, Afghans took significant risks to support our military and diplomatic mission in Afghanistan. In acknowledgement of the threats they face in aiding the U.S., we must extend and expand the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program in order to ensure their safety and the safety of their families,” said Durbin. 

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

  • Increasing the number of authorized visas by 20,000; 
  • 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 requirement for a credible sworn statement regarding the threat an applicant faces;  
  • 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 historically partnered with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on this priority, and continues to lead bipartisan efforts in Congress to reauthorize additional Afghan SIVs. Most recently, in the fiscal year 2021 government funding legislation that was signed into law, Senator Shaheen secured an additional 4,000 Afghan SIVs. 

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