The State Department’s Press Briefing of August 16 is all about Afghanistan. Excerpt below on SIVs:
We have spoken to our effort on behalf of SIVs, so-called Special Immigrant Visa applicants. You ask why we didn’t – why we haven’t done more. Let me just offer a bit of context. Through the course of this program, the United States has resettled, brought to their new lives, more than 75,000 Afghans who have in various ways assisted the United States Government over the years. The Special Immigrant Visa program provides – well, as it was initially conceived and legislated by Congress, it provides a visa to the United States. When this administration recognized that the security situation was becoming – was quickly evolving, many weeks ago we launched Operation Allies Refuge. This was something that was never envisioned in any SIV program, including the one we had in Afghanistan or the one we had in Iraq; that is to say, a gargantuan U.S. effort not only to process, adjudicate, and to grant visas to these so-called special immigrants but to actually bring them to the United States with a massive airlift operation.
It’s been through that operation that 2,000 Afghans have been able to reach the United States. Most of those Afghans have now been able to start their new lives through resettlement agencies. Just – it was a month or so ago we recognized that the need could be even greater for Afghans who are vulnerable, who may be at risk. That is precisely why we initiated a so-called Priority 2, P-2 refugee status program that went beyond – beyond the statutory definitions of who could apply for and be eligible for the SIV program, to include those brave Afghans who not only have helped the U.S. Government over the years but have helped the American people.
We know that there are other vulnerable Afghans – some for the work they have done, some for the things they have said, some for nothing more than their gender – and we are also working and planning to bring as many as we can to safety.
Right now, we are, again, in the process of re-establishing control over the airport. The military has been able to surge resources and will surge additional resources to the theater to allow us to bring, on a large scale, a number of these Afghans who will be able to start new lives in the United States or who will be able to reach safety elsewhere in the world. We are committed to that. We have been flexible. We have been ambitious in our effort to do just that.
Note that FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amended the SIV program for Afghanistan and put a limit to the total number of principal Afghan applicants who could be granted a special immigrant visas after December 19, 2012 originally at 22,500. The Congressional Research Service indicates that the State Department has taken the position that the total number of SIVs available after December 19, 2014 is actually 26,500. That number matched the data provided by State to State/OIG when it reviewed the Afghan SIV program in 2020.
CRS also says that the FY2021 CAA, enacted on December 27, 2020, “rewrote the existing statutory visa cap language (which provided 22,500 visas) to authorize a new total of 26,500, an increase of 4,000 visas.”
According to the US Embassy Kabul Consular Section cited by State/OIG, it is common for an SIV applicant to have approximately five derivative family members (one spouse and four children) who qualify to receive SIVs. If State has already issued 75,000 SIVs, approximately 15,000 principal applicants were already issued visas. Which means, there are 11,000 visas for principal applicants still available; after that, Congress will need to fix the cap if it wants additional visas to be issued.