The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan has advised U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Kabul airport due to “potential security threats” unless they receive individual instructions from a representative of the US government to do so. Right now, as difficult as it may be, transportation out of Afghanistan is still being facilitated by the United States and other Western countries, with a steady flow of flights coming in and out of Kabul every day. The situation is reminiscent of American humanitarian flights to Berlin surrounded by the Soviets at the end of World War II. The cavalcade of planes from Kabul is expected to end on August 31 or, depending on what happens, soon after, one way or another. From an immigration standpoint, the question is what can be done to forever get out of Afghanistan and avoid the chaos that follows?
The answer to this question depends on your status and the situation on the ground. If you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you get priority and it comes down to negotiating your trip to Kabul airport and showing proof of your status to board one of the evacuation planes. Between 5,000 and 7,000 people will have to be evacuated daily to beat the August 31 withdrawal deadline. Something similar would likely be true for people with a US work or study visa or any other approved immigration application, but it’s not such an urgent priority. For those who have a similar status in other allied countries, Canada for example, the situation is the same. As far as Afghan citizens are concerned, however, even those who have assisted Americans as interpreters and others, the situation is more difficult.
The Emergency Security Supplementary Appropriations Act of 2021, enacted on July 30, 2021, authorized 8,000 additional special immigrant visas for Afghan principal applicants. The power of the State Department to issue these visas to Afghan nationals will continue until all visa numbers assigned under the law are issued. But 8,000 such visas is a stain in the ocean in terms of the number really needed.
The Department of Defense (DOD) can work with the Department of Homeland Security to issue parole to Afghans and their family members who have assisted Americans.
However, this is something that the Defense Ministry must initiate by recommending an Afghan to the Ministry of Homeland Security. Afghans can be granted parole with only their Afghan identity card or will try– they don’t need a passport. Information on the request of such DOD parole and one DOD request template has been made available to those who want to try this escape route. The key is to convince a DOD official or military officer to come to the aid of the Afghan individual to defend the case and complete the documents. But time is running out.
Although it is not easy to obtain, an Afghan can also apply for parole through the traditional route through the United States Embassy, using a Form I-131. Such requests can be expedited by writing the word EXPEDITE in the upper right corner of the form and explaining why they need to be expedited, possibly because the applicant’s life is in danger. The trick is that in order to get such parole you must either state that you will be returning to Afghanistan, or at least how you will regularize your status in the United States, for example through an adjustment of status, asylum request, adoption, or similar explanation. Such parole is traditionally limited to one year, but no law or regulation requires it. You can apply for longer or even indefinite parole. All of this assumes that you can contact the U.S. Embassy and have them issue the documents quickly, which is probably not a likely scenario in Afghanistan now. It would be more likely that if an Afghan manages to get to a third country, possibly crossing a neighboring border, he or she can file a parole application with a US consulate abroad.
Afghan citizens are also eligible for electronic visas (short for electronic visas) for Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Electronic visas are also available for Qatar, Antigua and Barbuda, Benin and Ethiopia. An e-visa is simply a travel visa that you can apply for on your own through a country’s visa website online. Afghan citizens can also enter the following countries without a visa: Cape Verde: visa on arrival, Comoros: visa on arrival, Dominica: visa free entry and Maldives: visa on arrival. The challenge, however, is to leave Afghanistan. Perhaps this could be done by entering a country neighboring Afghanistan and traveling from there.
Improvements in the treatment of refugees
In a related development, The hill report that the Biden administration proposed to streamline the asylum process in America to allow officers from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to grant asylum and allow all migrants who see themselves deny the right to appeal the decision to the court system. Welcoming this proposed policy change, Jennifer Whitlock, policy advisor at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said, “There is a world of difference between going through the asylum process at USCIS, where an officer is probably trained on trauma-informed interrogation, and going to court and dealing with prosecutors challenging your statements and a judge who may feel like a second prosecutor.
With each passing hour, the chances of an evacuation or flight from Afghanistan diminish. Everything that can be done must be done now to save as many lives as possible.