Out of Harm’s Way? Perspectives of the Special Immigrant Visa Program for Afghanistan

September 2016.

Noah Coburn and Timor Sharan

As the United States has drawn down the number of troops stationed in Afghanistan and the amount of internationally funded programs has similarly decreased, Afghans who worked as interpreters for the military or other U.S. government projects have been left in grave danger, as they and their families are often the target of Taliban violence. The U.S. government created the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to address this issue, allowing for Afghan interpreters that worked with U.S. programs to immigrate to the United States to escape such threats. However, this program has been plagued with administrative and political challenges that have created a backlog in the ability to process applications; as of February 2016, 10,575 Afghan interpreters and their family members had pending applications.

As the U.S. policy community debates the application obstacles, less attention has been paid to the perceptions of the program and the longer-term impacts for those who complete the visa process. Two researchers, Noah Coburn and Timor Sharan, studied these issues through a series of interviews conducted with applicants, including those rejected by the program still in Afghanistan, those accepted by the program and resettled in the US, and numerous applicants in the middle of the process. This research, supported by a Hollings Center small grant, resulted in a series of recommendations for U.S. policy makers. Please read on below to read the findings of their research and the key policy proposals for U.S. lawmakers.

To read a summary of the policy recommendations in Dari, click here.

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