Reform Bill Increases Immigration Opportunities for Afghan Nationals

1161062_tourists.jpgThe Senate's reform bill is more than one thousand pages long and details plans to change employment-based immigration opportunities, as well as provides a pathway to citizenship for many foreign nationals who are currently in the U.S. without legal status. While these bill provisions have received much attention from American media, there are several other sections of the legislation that are worth a closer look.

For example, one section of the bill would triple the amount of Afghan nationals who are eligible for a U.S. green card. This specific section concerns the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program (ASIVP) that was originally implemented in 2009.

The ASIVP sets aside a yearly 1,500 immigrant visas (green cards) for Afghan nationals who are employed by the United States in Afghanistan for at least one year. To qualify for the ASIVP, applicants must prove that they have faced security threats on account of their employment with the United States.

The new bill changes the parameters of the ASIVP in several ways. First, the bill increases the number of visas allotted to Afghan nationals each year from 1,500 to 5,000. Second, at the time of its adoption the ASIVP was scheduled to expire in 2013, but the reform bill would extend it to 2018. Third, the bill would allow Afghans who were employed for the media or non-governmental organizations to qualify for the ASIVP.

This last change is especially newsworthy as it greatly expands the potential pool of Afghan nationals who may qualify for ASIVP. Under the new bill, Afghans who work for an entity that is closely associated with the U.S. in Afghanistan - not necessarily the U.S. itself - would be able to apply for a green card pursuant to ASIVP.

Additionally, the old ASIVP allowed spouses and unmarried children under 21 to accompany the Afghan national to the United States. The new legislation would allow the Afghan national to bring his/her siblings and parents to the U.S. as well.

Like all of the other bill provisions, the ASIVP provision has been met with criticism from groups who oppose widening the breadth of asylum programs in the United States. These opponents point to criminals who came to the U.S. via asylum programs only to commit atrocities against Americans. The most often used example is that of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Chechen brothers who stand accused of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and who came to the U.S. as refugees a decade ago.

Along with the Tsarnaev brothers, the U.S. has also extended asylum to Zbigniew Brzezinski, a prominent Chechen leader who stands accused of terrorist acts by Russia, as well as Ilyas Akhmadov, Chechnya's former foreign minister, who has been placed on Russia's equivalent of the FBI's most-wanted list.

At the Gee Law Firm, our attorneys are available to explain the provisions of the new bill to prospective clients who are unsure of their immigration options. Our attorneys have a wealth of experience in filing successful asylum applications, employment-based applications, and family-based applications. Contact our office today at 650-293-0270 and speak to a member of our legal team about your case.

Additional Blog Posts

The Point-System for Immigration Reform: Give Me Your Young, Highly-Educated, and Highly Experienced, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 15, 2013
ACLU Sues U.S. Government Over Voluntary Departure, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, June 7, 2013

Immigration Reform / by Michelle Gee