Time was running out for many Afghan refugees living and working in the United States after American troops withdrew from Afghanistan. Thanks to the Biden administration’s recent decision to extend what is known as “parole,” many Afghans will now be given the opportunity to continue to live and work in the U.S. lawfully so that they can pursue permanent protection here—but it will still take a concerted effort to ensure they receive it.
As a result of the swift takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the Biden administration moved quickly to evacuate Afghans who had supported the U.S. government and its military efforts, as well as those who feared they would face persecution. The evacuation, dubbed Operation Allies Welcome (OAW), required extraordinary mobilization across the federal government and among the states, communities, and non-profit organizations that helped to resettle the almost 90,000 Afghans brought to the United States under OAW.
Due to the unique circumstances of the evacuation, this process did not align with the normal refugee resettlement case arc. The Afghans that resettled in the U.S. did not arrive with official refugee status. As a result, they had different legal and support needs than those historically provided by resettlement agencies. Most Afghans would have to fight for their right to stay in the U.S. permanently, either by applying for asylum or for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) – a visa for individuals who worked with the U.S. government.
Upon arrival, the Afghans resettled under OAW were granted humanitarian parole for two years. This status has permitted them to stay and work in the U.S. while they applied for permanent status. Now, almost two years after the evacuation of Kabul, many Afghans have not yet applied for protection or are still awaiting a final response from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on their application.
It is in this context that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its intention to extend parole for Afghan nationals resettled under OAW for two more years on May 5, 2023, and opened the official process for re-parole on June 8. The re-parole announcement is a welcome development and offers Afghan evacuees the time they need to continue to apply for protection. It also gives USCIS more time to process, review, and hopefully approve those applications.
This is what we now know about the Afghan re-parole process: