Information on immigration and benefits for Afghan evacuees

This page provides information on the benefits and different visa programs available to arriving Afghans. On our benefits information table, you will learn the types of services and benefits for refugees, IVs, SQ/SI parolees, and humanitarian parolees. 

Learn about the different visa programs for arriving Afghans, including Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)refugees under the Priority 2 (P2) ProgramSI/SQ Parolees, and programs for those granted humanitarian parole and asylum.


Afghani girl's face

There are different visa programs for Afghan evacuees including Special Immigrant Visas, refugee status, and parole options. Most Afghans now arriving will be granted humanitarian parole which is a temporary status. Lawmakers may make changes to the way that Afghans with humanitarian parole are able to adjust their status. We will update this page if the policy is updated.

Learn more about the visa programs below.

Benefits for Afghans arriving to the U.S.

This section explains what services and benefits are currently available to Afghans who are:

  • Refugees;
  • Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders;
  • Special Immigrant (SQ/SI) parolees; and,
  • Humanitarian parolee

On September 30th, 2021 Congress passed a continuing resolution to expand the benefits and services available to arriving Afghans. This change allows Afghans with humanitarian parole status who were paroled into the U.S. between July 31, 2021 and March 31, 2023 to access the same mainstream benefits and services as those who come as refugees or Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs).

Special thanks to Migration Policy Institute (MPI) for their support in developing this content.

Benefit
Refugees, SIVs, SI/SQ Parolees
Humanitarian Parolees
Work Authorization
Refugees and SIVs are automatically authorized to work. 

You do need to file a form to receive a work authorization card. 

SI/SQ parolees are eligible to file an application for authorization.
Humanitarian parolees are eligible to file an application for work authorization, called an Employment Authorization Document form I-765.



Immigration Benefits 
SIVs receive a green card immediately.

SI/SQ parolees receive a green card once SIV application is approved. 

Refugees are eligible for a green card after 1 year.

Refugees and SIVs are eligible to apply for spouses and unmarried children under 21 to join them in the U.S. Learn more about refugee family reunification.

All categories eligible for citizenship after five years
Humanitarian parolees are not eligible for additional immigration benefits unless they are able to establish a different status (such as by being granted asylum which would provide the same benefits as those of refugees and SIVs).
Basic needs support for the first 30-90 days provided by refugee resettlement agencies.
Reception & Placement Services (R&P) – This includes initial housing, food, cultural orientation, and other basic needs.
Afghan Parolee Assistance (APA) – This program was established for parolees to provide services very similar to R&P.
Social services by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). These include ongoing help with jobs, case management, and other services such as English as a Second Language (ESL). 

These services are often provided by resettlement offices as well as community-based NGOs.
Yes
Yes
Public cash assistance. This includes ORR funded Refugee Cash Assistance as well as the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for families with children and the Supplemental Security Income program for the elderly, blind, or disabled person.
Yes
Yes
Healthcare and medical insurance. This includes ORR funded Refugee Medical Assistance as well as the federal Medicaid program.
Yes 

Afghan evacuees can get health insurance through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Health Insurance Marketplace, or Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA or other health coverage provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)). Learn more about health coverage options for Afghan evacuees.

You may also purchase a plan through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
Yes 

Afghan evacuees can get health insurance through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Health Insurance Marketplace, or Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA or other health coverage provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)). Learn more about health coverage options for Afghan evacuees.

You may also purchase a plan through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
Monthly food assistance through SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program)
Yes
Yes
Child care assistance to help pay for child care when parents are working.
Yes
Yes
Support for young children including preschool, home visits, and food assistance provided through Head Start and Early Head Start; the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program; and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
Yes
Yes
Workforce services under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. 

These include help to create a resume and find a job and job training as well as other services like English literacy classes.
Yes
Yes
HUD Public Housing and Section 8 housing assistance programs to help reduce the cost of housing. These programs can have long waitlists and are different in each location.
Yes
Yes

More information on social services and public benefits

Refugees, SIVs, SQ/SI parolees and Humanitarian Parolees

For refugees, SIVs, and parolees, social services are provided through local resettlement agencies after arrival. These Reception and Placement (R&P) or Afghan Parolee Assistance (APA) services include securing housing, food, and other basic needs support during the 30-90 days after arrival.

These agencies also provide ongoing services and benefits funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement including help with jobs, case management, and connection to important services like English language classes and healthcare. The types of longer-term programs may be different from office to office and community to community-based on the types of funding and services available. 

Refugees, SIVs, and parolees may also be eligible for cash assistance and medical insurance. These programs are income-based, meaning that once you have enough income from a job, they may be reduced or stopped. The cash assistance provided by these programs is usually less than $500/month for a family of three, but it is different in every state. 

Adult refugees, SIVs, and parolees without children may be eligible for up to 8 months of assistance through refugee-specific cash and medical programs. Refugees, SIVs, and parolees who arrive with children may be eligible to enroll in federal and state programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid.

Elders and those who are unable to work because of disability may be eligible for cash assistance through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

It is important to know that the resettlement of Afghans is a large-scale evacuation effort. The services may be different from one place to another. The services may not be the same as they were for individuals who were resettled in previous years.

Visa programs for arriving Afghans

Afghan evacuees are coming through different immigration options. Most Afghans now arriving will be granted humanitarian parole which is a temporary status. There may be policy changes in the future that will change the way that Afghan parolees are able to change their status. Learn more about the different status categories below. 

Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)

The SIV visa program is available to Afghan nationals who were employed by the U.S. government or a contractor with direct funding from the U.S. government or ISAF in Afghanistan for at least one year.

This program is intended to allow those who qualify, and their direct family members, to apply directly to the U.S. for resettlement. They do not have to wait for a UNHCR referral. 

After their cases have been approved, SIVs receive resettlement services from a local resettlement office.

Learn more:

Refugees under the Priority 2 (P2) Program

Afghans may arrive as refugees under the P2 program. A P2 designation means that this is a group of “special concern” to the U.S. government. 

P2 includes Afghanistan nationals who:

  • Worked in Afghanistan for a U.S. government-funded program, a U.S. based media organization, or a non-governmental organization. 
  • Would qualify for the SIV program but do not meet the minimum one year time-in-service requirement for SIV. 

Employees of subcontractors will not be approved for P2 status. The P2 program does not accept self-referrals. You must be referred by the senior-most U.S. citizen person in your organization. 

After your case has been approved, refugees in the P2 program receive resettlement services from a local resettlement office in the USA.

Learn more:

SI/SQ Parolees

These are people with pending Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applications.  

Learn more:

Humanitarian Parole

Humanitarian parole is a temporary status allowing the parolee to stay in the United States for a set period of time while applying for a longer-term solution. 

This is the status that most incoming Afghans will have. Most people with humanitarian parole will likely be seeking asylum in the U.S. Under current law, parolees are able to apply for work authorization but they are not eligible for other immigration benefits unless they are granted a different status. 

You can see the benefits available to parolees above. 

Learn more:

Asylum

Most people who arrive with humanitarian status may eventually apply for asylum. You can apply for asylum from within the U.S. or at a U.S. port of entry. A person can seek asylum in the United States if they meet the definition of a refugee. Learn more about how to apply for asylum.

If you are approved for asylum, you can access the same benefits as refugees and SIVs. 

You can find help with learning about your options with an immigration legal services provider. Find accredited representatives and attorneys at ImmigrationLawHelp.com or a trusted non-profit organization on the CLINIC legal directory.

This page is intended for informational purposes only. USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice. If you are looking for a free or low-cost lawyer or legal help, we can help you find free and low-cost legal services.


Information about immigration and benefits for Afghans on this page has been adapted from resources provided by Immigrant Refugee Assistance Programs (IRAP), National Immigration Law Center, Migration Policy Institute (MPI), Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), and Switchboard TA.