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Immigration status and benefits for Afghans

Afghan nationals evacuated to the USA have different immigration statuses. Understand the SIV program, parole, asylum, and other statuses. Learn if you need to take further steps to stay in the USA permanently. Also, find a helpful list of available benefits and services.

Mizajou December 1, 2023

Afghan Status Categories

Afghan evacuees could have humanitarian parole, a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), asylum, refugee status, or Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Most Afghan evacuees will need to file additional paperwork to get legal status that allows them to stay in the USA permanently.

Find official guidance in USCIS’ Information for Afghan Nationals

You can apply for more than one immigration status at the same time. Filing an application for asylum or TPS at the same time as your SIV application will not slow down the process. Afghans are encouraged to apply for permanent status as soon as possible. 

It is important to seek legal advice from an immigration lawyer or accredited representative. You can find help with Project Afghan Legal Assistance (PALA) or Immigration Legal Services for Afghan Arrivals (ILSAA).

Humanitarian parole

If you are a humanitarian parolee not eligible for the SIV program, your status is temporary. It lasts 2 years. You can apply for re-parole to temporarily extend your protection while you apply for a different status.

Parolees can not get a green card. You must be approved for a different status to get lawful permanent residence. The best option for Afghan parolees may be to apply for asylum.

Afghan parolees with pending applications for re-parole, asylum or other adjustment of status can still get benefits even if your current parole period ends. 

Re-parole process 

If you have humanitarian parole through Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) you can request re-parole. These requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. If your request is accepted you can continue to live and work legally in the USA for an additional 2 years. You will also still be eligible for ORR services.

You do not need to apply for re-parole if you:

  • have a pending asylum application or adjustment of status application
  • applied for asylum or AOS before your initial parole expires 

To file for re-parole, you must complete and submit a revised Form I-131. This can be done online or by mail. Form I-131 will request both a re-parole and an extension of your work authorization. No other form is needed.

There is no cost to filing the form. It is free.

Tips for requesting re-parole:

  • Look at your EAD card to make sure the information matches what you put on the form. This includes the spelling of your name, date of birth, and A-number.
  • Filing online can help you avoid common mistakes. If you choose to file online, you will need a myUSCIS account
  • File as soon as possible so you do not risk a gap in status and lose access to benefits and services. 
  • You can file for re-parole even if you have a pending application for another status, such as asylum.
  • Review a list of documents to prepare, including a copy of your EAD and I-94. (List also in دری / Dari and پښتو / Pashto)
  • Review these frequently asked questions  
  • Review the USCIS tip sheet
(https://youtu.be/Vxe8JI37S4c)

Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)

You can apply for an SIV if you were employed by the U.S. government, a U.S. contractor, or ISAF in Afghanistan for at least one year. Once you have an approved I-360 SIV, you can apply for a green card with Form I-485.

There is no fee to apply for a green card for Afghan SIVs. You will also receive quicker processing times. It will take an estimated 6 months.

Asylum

If you were forced to leave Afghanistan to escape persecution and you do not have SIV or refugee status, you may be eligible for asylum. Applying for asylum is a long process but it offers a pathway to legally stay in the U.S. permanently.

You typically must file your application within one year of arrival in the USA. You may be eligible to apply after one year if you apply before your parole expires.

Learn how to apply for asylum. Once you are approved for asylum you will be eligible for certain benefits. You can apply for your green card one year after your asylum case is approved. 

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXL_oR1psVI&feature=youtu.be)

Refugee 

If you entered the U.S. as a refugee, you can apply for your green card one year after arrival. Your resettlement agency can help you find legal help to complete this application.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

TPS allows you to stay in the U.S. temporarily. You can have TPS along with another status. If you only have TPS, you are not eligible to apply for a green card.

Learn how to apply for TPS Afghanistan

If you change your address you must notify USCIS within 10 days, even if you are moving to a temporary location. Use the USCIS Change of Address form.

Work permit

You can apply for a work permit, or an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) if you have a qualifying status. This includes refugees, asylees, temporary protected status, and parole. Learn more about the application process

USCIS will automatically extend parole and work authorization for Afghan parolees who either:

  • Have a pending asylum application or adjustment of status application 
  • Apply for asylum or AOS before their initial parole expires

Help for Afghans in the U.S.

The Virtual Resettlement Line (VRL) is a resource for any Afghan who is not yet connected to a resettlement agency or who is struggling to get benefits or resources. You can call 212-551-3010 or email [email protected] to connect with Dari and Pashto speaking staff. 

USCIS also has Afghan Support Centers in different cities to help you understand your options and apply for direct services. 

Public benefits 

If you have refugee, asylee, SIV, or parolee status you can get resettlement services and public benefits that help you get settled in your new community. 

You must have been paroled into the USA between July 31, 2021 and September 30, 2023 to qualify for these benefits. If you were paroled after September 30, 2023, only the following people can get public benefits:

  • A spouse or child of an Afghan parolee
  • A parent or legal guardian of an unaccompanied child parolee

All other Afghans paroled into the USA after October 1, 2023 will not be eligible for resettlement services and public benefits. These benefits are not offered to TPS holders. 

These benefits include:

Reunite with family members

You can apply for your spouse and unmarried children under 21 to come to the USA. Learn more. There is no fee to apply.

Basic needs support

When you first arrive, you can get help with housing, food, adjusting to U.S. culture, and other basic needs. For the first 30-90 days, this is provided by refugee resettlement agencies through the Reception & Placement Services (R&P) or Afghan Parolee Assistance Program (APA).

Resettlement assistance may be provided by a resettlement agency or by volunteers from the community. 

Social services

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) provides ongoing help with jobs, case management, and other services such as English as a Second Language (ESL) classes provided by refugee resettlement offices and community-based organizations (NGOs). 

The types of long-term services provided may be different from one place to another. Some offices have special services for youth, women, and older refugees.

Public cash assistance

You may receive cash assistance when you first arrive. The amount that you receive and the length of time you can receive it will depend on your family size, age, and the place where you live. Once you get a job, the amount can go down or stop. 

Public cash programs include:

  • ORR Refugee Cash Assistance (for adults without children)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for families with children
  • Supplemental Security Income program for older adults and people with disabilities

Healthcare and medical insurance

In the USA, most people use medical insurance to help pay for healthcare. The type of insurance you can get will be different depending on the state you live in and your circumstances. Afghans may also have government help with healthcare.

Any person can access care through a community health clinic. If you are feeling sad or depressed, learn how to find mental health help.

Monthly food assistance

The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) is a government program that helps you pay for food when you do not have enough money. A refugee resettlement office can help you apply for this program.

You will receive a card that is like a debit card to use at the grocery store. The amount of money you receive will depend on what state you are in and how many people are in your family. Once you start working the amount may go down or stop. 

Help for families with children

If you have children, you might be able to get help to pay for childcare while you are working.

You are also able to get support for young children including preschool, home visits, and food assistance provided through:

  • Head Start
  • Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

Help with jobs

There are programs to help you find a job, prepare a resume, and access other services like English classes or job training programs. You can get help through your resettlement office or local programs through the Department of Workforce Services.

Learn about getting your work permit and how to register for work opportunities.

Housing assistance

If you have a low income, you might be able to get help from the government to pay for housing through HUD Public Housing and Section 8 housing assistance programs. These programs can have long waitlists and are different in each location.

Learn more about finding housing.

It is important to know that services may be different from one place to another within the USA.

Enfòmasyon ki nan paj sa a vini de DHS, USCIS, IRAP, CLINIC, MPI, ak lòt sous nou ka fè konfyans. Nou vize pou ofri enfòmasyon fasil pou konprann ki mete ajou regilyèman. Enfòmasyon sa a se pa konsèy jiridik.

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