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POLITICO Pro: How Afghan Immigrants and Refugees Can Enter the U.S.(August 2021)

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As many Afghans attempt to leave their home country, fearing reprisal from the Taliban, the U.S. is sorting out who to let in. People can apply for visas or refugee status while not in the U.S., while they’d apply for asylum upon reaching the U.S. border or while in the U.S.

Most Afghans who have immigrated in recent years have arrived using a special immigrant visa, designed for people who worked for the U.S. or the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 passed in July authorized an additional 8,000 SIVs for Afghan applicants, and reduced the work requirement from two years of work to one year of work for the U.S. or ISAF.

Separately, Afghan refugees have thus far comprised a small portion of the total U.S. refugee program. The 20,000 admitted to the U.S. during the past two decades made up just 2 percent of all U.S. refugee admissions over that time period. The Watson Institute at Brown University estimates that since 2001, about 2.1 million people have fled Afghanistan.

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By Taylor Miller Thomas, POLITICO Pro DataPoint