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Shaheen Leads Bipartisan Letter Urging Inclusion of 20,000 Additional Visas for Afghan Allies

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations, Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, today sent a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership urging that the State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) appropriations bill upholds our commitment to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program and includes 20,000 additional visas. U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA),Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined Shaheen on this letter.

In part, the Senators wrote: “According to the Department of State, as of March 1, 2024, there are approximately 7,000 visas remaining, with 1,000 visas issued every month. 12,000 applicants have received Chief of Mission (COM) approval and are awaiting visa interviews and another 8,000 have COM approval and are collecting the necessary documents to become interview ready. This means that approximately 20,000 principal applicants will soon require visas.”

They continued: “There have been credible reports of hundreds of Afghans killed while waiting for the SIV application to be processed. Congress must ensure that the visas are available to bring every eligible SIV applicant – including the surviving spouse in cases where our Afghan ally has already been killed – to the United States.”

Full text of the letter can be found here.

Senator Shaheen has long led on efforts to reform and improve the Afghan SIV program, having partnered with the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to protect Afghans who risked their lives to support the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. In July, Shaheen secured the inclusion of 20,000 additional visas in the Senate appropriations bill to fund the Department of State, marking the first time the Senate supported a large visa increase in the program’s history. This provision is what the group of Senators are now urging be retained in the final funding bill. For years, she has led bipartisan efforts in Congress to reauthorize additional Afghan SIVs, including working with Senator Wicker (R-MS) to reintroduce the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2023 and her bipartisan legislation with Senator Ernst (R-IA) that was signed into law in 2021 amid U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan following consistent calls from Shaheen to improve the pathway to safety for Afghan allies.