FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 1, 2016
IRAP LAUDS REINTERPRETATION OF STATE DEPARTMENT POLICY FOR AFGHAN ALLIES
FISHER: “The State Department’s reinterpretation demonstrates to Afghan allies that the United States will not forget our promises to them.”
New York, NY, MARCH 1, 2016 – The International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center (IRAP) welcomes the State Department’s reinterpretation of bipartisan legislation that protects U.S. allies in Afghanistan. The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program extends life-saving protection to Afghans who are targeted for their work with the United States. After initially taking a position that could have disqualified thousands of deserving applicants, the State Department announced that it will interpret the legislation in a manner that gives effect to Congress’ intent to protect Afghans.
The most recent SIV legislation increased requirements for SIV applicants, extending the minimum one year of employment to two years. On January 27, 2016, the State Department announced that it had interpreted these increased requirements to apply retroactively to Afghans who had submitted an application before the change occurred. This troubling development meant that applicants whose cases the government had simply failed to process now had to meet a higher hurdle to prove eligibility.
This week, following targeted advocacy from IRAP and key legislators, as well as significant media attention, the State Department has announced that they will not apply the new eligibility requirement retroactively. Instead, they will only apply increased requirements to individuals submitting new applications.
“The SIV program is the only lifeline for allies in Afghanistan who have served alongside our troops and diplomats. This reinterpretation is an important step, demonstrating to Afghans that the United States will not ignore our promises to them,” said Betsy Fisher, Policy Director of IRAP.
IRAP wishes to thank Sens. Shaheen, McCain, Reed, and Durbin; Reps. Blumenauer, Kinzinger, and Moulton; and Faegre BD Consulting for their powerful advocacy.
IRAP will continue to advocate for the SIV program’s extension and for improvements to visa processing.
You can view this press release as a PDF here: Press Release 2-Year Employment Final