The Special Immigrant Visa crisis explained

The New York Times ran this column on February 16 about the perils of Afghans due to failures in the SIV program.

What is a Special Immigrant Visa?

The “special immigrant” category was first instituted in 1965 as an amendment (and later amended) to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952, includes many classifications, including the following: An immigrant employed by the U.S. government overseas who “performed faithful service” for 15 years and those whose lives have been put in danger as a result of their employment with the U.S. government or its affiliates. Each need for an SIV involves a special act to approve more visas,

Here is a summary of the SIV programs specifically created for Iraqi and Afghan conflicts. Note that the size of these programs were initially set in the low 1,000s. By the end of 2019, some 18,000 visas were issued. An August 23, 2021 WSJ article includes an estimate that some 100,000 persons (including dependents) might be eligible. Last year, I showed here that past evacuations in similar circumstances indicated a 100,000 level effort.

Problems in the Iraq and Afghan SIV programs were well documented. Here is an Inspector General’s report dated June 2020.

This month (February 2022) Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticized the evacuation. Focusing on the SIV program the report said that the administration failed to correct well known problems in the SIV program including how employment was verified. The State Dept and Defense Dept did not have a proactive system for tracking employment.

There is no SIV program in place for Syrian and Kurdish helpers in the Syrian conflict.


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