Afghan allies are being transferred to third countries or sent directly to the US
After announcing the withdrawal deadline in April, the Biden administration put its faith in the SIV program, which has existed since 2006, as its primary means of bringing Afghans to the US. But an intense, 14-step application process and a significant backlog that piled up during the final months of the Trump administration have made it an onerous immigration pathway for many who aided the US war effort, even before Kabul fell to Taliban control.
Applicants are required to submit significant documentation, including a recommendation letter from their senior US-citizen supervisor. But many Afghans who would otherwise be eligible for the program have difficulty obtaining that recommendation letter, especially in cases where they worked as contractors.
Even if an applicant can gather the required documents, they have faced lengthy wait times before they are ultimately approved for a visa. By law, SIVs are required to be processed within nine months, but in practice, the average processing time has always been longer than that.
The Trump administration actively stonewalled the program, meaning that not a single SIV was processed between March 2020 and January 2021. In response, a federal judge ordered the government to come up with a plan to process these applications in a timely manner after thousands of SIV applicants sued. Yet it’s still been taking about two years to process the applications.
Now, the Biden administration is surging resources to speed up processing of SIV applicants, who are being sent to third countries temporarily before being brought to the US. According to the State Department, the US government has been issuing SIVs at a rate of more than 800 per week — an eightfold increase over the course of a few months.