What Is the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office

To help protect Afghan people whom the U.S. employed or worked with, the U.S. government developed the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Established in 2009, the SIV program has seen a considerable backlog that the government is looking to alleviate.

The Start of the SIV Program for Afghan Citizens

Congress initially launched the SIV program to provide Afghan citizens with permanent protection if they provided assistance to American troops. These citizens filled the roles of translators, interpreters, and many others. They either worked directly under or on behalf of the U.S. throughout the war in Afghanistan.

At this point, there are tens of thousands of Afghans who qualify for the program. Meanwhile, only approximately 118,000 SIV holders and their families have been evacuated in an attempt to seek protection. 

Individuals who qualify for the program may be able to receive one visa for themselves. They also have the ability to apply for visas for their families, including spouses and children under 21.

Reducing the Backlog

Prior to recent legislation, SIV applicants had to undergo a long period of processing and approval that could take years. With the help of the Biden administration, on the other hand, applicants will benefit from a more efficient process that enables them to receive approval within 30 days of entering the U.S.

In addition, a new “Priority-2” designation is intended to help qualify U.S.-connected Afghans who aren’t eligible for an SIV at this time. To qualify, they would be required to leave Afghanistan and go through a third nation before traveling to the U.S.

The Growing Demand for SIVs

Throughout the Taliban’s acquisition of Afghanistan and the U.S.’s withdrawal, Afghan citizens have sought protection from the U.S. as they face many dangers. The Taliban is actively searching for any citizens who may have helped the U.S. and could cause harm to them if exposed. Subsequently, a growing number of Afghan citizens are seeking asylum in the U.S. as a means of escaping the Taliban’s grasp.

As a result, the SIV program has become a necessity for many who are trying to evade the dangers in their home country. With reduced backlog and expedited approval, many people could benefit from this program as they request help from the federal government.