On August 29, 2021, President Biden directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to lead and coordinate ongoing efforts across the federal government to support vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked alongside us in Afghanistan for the past two decades, as they safely resettle in the United States. At the President’s direction, the Secretary of Homeland Security is working with representatives from across the government to coordinate our response and ensure unity of effort.
To lead the effort in support of Operation Allies Welcome, DHS established a Unified Coordination Group (UCG). The UCG reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security and coordinates the implementation of a broad range of services, including initial processing, COVID-19 testing, isolation of COVID-positive individuals, vaccinations, additional medical services, and screening and support for individuals who are neither U.S. citizens nor lawful permanent residents. This support includes initial processing at pre-designated U.S. military bases prior to being connected with non-governmental organizations for resettlement into communities. The work of the UCG is undertaken in close collaboration with partners in state and local government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.
Screening and Vetting Prior to Arrival in the United States
The U.S. government is working around the clock to conduct the security screening and vetting of vulnerable Afghans before they are permitted entry into the United States, consistent with the dual goals of protecting national security and providing protection for our Afghan allies. As with any population entering the United States, DHS, in coordination with interagency vetting partners, takes multiple steps to ensure that those seeking entry do not pose a national security or public safety risk.
DHS deployed approximately 400 personnel from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, United States Coast Guard, and United States Secret Service to Bahrain, Germany, Kuwait, Italy, Qatar, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates to conduct processing, screening, and vetting in coordination with the Departments of Defense (DOD) and State (DOS) and other federal agencies, and to conduct interviews as needed, with the goal of bringing to the United States Afghan nationals who worked for the United States, as well as other vulnerable Afghans.
The rigorous screening and vetting process, which is multi-layered and ongoing, involves biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from DHS and DOD, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and additional intelligence community partners. This process includes reviewing fingerprints, photos, and other biometric and biographic data for every single Afghan before they are cleared to travel to the United States. As with other arrivals at U.S. ports of entry, Afghan nationals undergo a primary inspection when they arrive at a U.S. airport, and a secondary inspection is conducted as the circumstances require.
Most Afghan nationals arriving as part of the evacuation effort will be paroled into the United States on a case-by-case basis, for humanitarian reasons, for a period of two years. As noted above, parole is only issued subsequent to required screening and vetting. Afghan nationals have conditions placed on their parole, including requiring them to receive medical screening, critical vaccinations, and other reporting requirements. Failure to fulfill these conditions may cause individuals to have their work authorization denied, and potentially to have their parole terminated, which could lead to detention and removal proceedings. Afghan parolees may be eligible to apply for immigration benefits through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Special Immigrant Visas
Afghans who have completed the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) process and who possess visas, and their dependents, will be admitted as lawful permanent residents and assisted by DOS and non-governmental organizations to begin their resettlement process. Those individuals who have not finished the SIV application process are paroled in by DHS. They can continue to pursue special immigrant status (and ultimately lawful permanent residency) or they may apply for another immigration status through USCIS. Such individuals will be eligible to apply for work authorization.
More than 40 percent of Afghans who have arrived as a part of Operation Allies Welcome are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) because they took significant risks to support our military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan, employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan or our coalition forces, or are a family member of someone who did. Some are SIV applicants who were already in the SIV pipeline.
It is important to note that not every Afghan who is eligible for the SIV program has applied for it, and the SIV program as it is currently designed does not cover every Afghan who supported the United States in Afghanistan. Additionally, the United States evacuated journalists, human rights activists, humanitarian workers, and other Afghans whose careers put them at risk, as well as family members of American citizens and lawful permanent residents.
COVID-19 Testing, Vaccinations, and Other Medical Services
The U.S. government continues to take every precaution to stop the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases consistent with CDC guidance. All those who enter – U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Afghan nationals – are tested for COVID-19.
Additionally, Afghan nationals who are paroled into the United States are required to complete vaccinations for MMR, varicella, polio, COVID-19, and other age-appropriate vaccinations, as well as medical exams and health screenings, as a condition of their humanitarian parole. All testing, vaccinations, and other medical services are available at no cost.
Processing at U.S. Military Facilities
After they finish processing at the port of entry, U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and SIV holders may depart the airport, while SIV applicants and other vulnerable Afghan allies who were granted humanitarian parole are provided transportation to U.S. military facilities where they receive a full medical screening and a variety of services before moving onto their next destination. DOD is providing temporary housing facilities for SIV applicants and other vulnerable Afghans at eight installations: Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; Fort Pickett, Virginia; Fort Lee, Virginia; Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Fort Bliss, Texas; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; and Camp Atterbury, Indiana. While on these bases, Afghans have access to a range of services, including medical care and mental health services. During this step in the process, Afghan nationals are able to apply for work authorization with USCIS personnel and are connected to resettlement services.
The Department of State (DOS) works closely with DOD and DHS to coordinate the civilian and non-governmental staff working at the military bases to ensure Afghans receive basic support and can finalize processing on base in order to transition to resettlement.Once Afghans have completed all processing steps, DOS works with its resettlement agency partners to assign and transfer them to their final destination.
Applying for Immigration Status, Work Authorization, and Essential Coverage
USCIS personnel are adjudicating applications for employment authorization, conducting other immigration processing, and providing administrative support, including translation services, to expedite the processing of applications for immigrant status and work authorization. DOS and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) are working to provide initial relocation support to Afghans granted parole and to ensure that those Afghans arriving in American communities have initial support, including health insurance. Provisions in the Continuing Resolution passed by Congress on September 30, 2021 authorized Afghan parolees to receive the same benefits and services as refugees.
Arriving Afghans are connected to resettlement agencies and community partners for initial resettlement assistance. DOS is leading this effort in close coordination with more than 200 local resettlement affiliates around the country. The local affiliates conduct extensive engagement with local communities to develop resources and support.
Through the Afghan Placement and Assistance Program (APA), individuals are placed in communities across the country to begin rebuilding their lives. As with traditional resettlement processes, placement of individuals considers U.S.-based family and friends, housing availability, community capacity, and the needs and characteristics of each case.
During the resettlement process, Afghan nationals are provided with briefings on the conditions of their parole and that violating the law violates their parole. These briefings include information on U.S. laws and rights, including that illegal actions or activities could lead to prosecution and imprisonment and may jeopardize an individual’s immigration status.
In addition to Operation Allies Welcome, DOS is managing referrals to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Afghans who assisted or were associated with the United States in Afghanistan, so that they can be considered for U.S. refugee resettlement from a third country if they have already left or leave Afghanistan. For more information on Afghan refugee processing, see the State Department Fact Sheet: U.S. Refugee Admissions Program Priority 2 Designation for Afghan Nationals.
How You Can Help
In coordination with other federal agencies and private sector and non-profit partners, DOS is collaborating with Welcome.US, a national non-profit initiative that launched in September 2021 to channel support from the American public and the private sector to newly arrived Afghans and their families. People who are interested in assisting arriving Afghans can go to Welcome.US to learn about ways to get involved.
In addition, DOS is working with the Community Sponsorship Hub to support the launch of the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans, a new program which enables groups of individuals and community organizations across the country to directly support Afghans who have been relocated to the United States under Operation Allies Welcome. The program will enable groups of individuals to apply to be vetted, trained, and certified to form sponsor circles to provide initial resettlement assistance to Afghans as they arrive and build new lives in local communities across the country. For more information on the Sponsor Circle Program and to learn how to apply to form a sponsor circle to support arriving Afghans, visit www.sponsorcircles.org.
Press Releases and Statements
- November 17, 2021 Operation Allies Welcome Announces Departure and Resettlement of Last Afghan Nationals from Fort Lee, Virginia
- November 8, 2021: DHS Announces Fee Exemptions, Streamlined Processing for Afghan Nationals as They Resettle in the U.S.
- October 26, 2021: Readout of Private Sector Roundtable on Operation Allies Welcome | WhiteHouse.gov
- October 25, 2021: Memorandum for the Secretary of State on Unexpected Urgent Refugee and Migration Needs | WhiteHouse.gov
- October 4, 2021: Operation Allies Welcome Completes Vaccination Campaign for Measles and Varicella for Afghan Evacuees
- September 24, 2021: On-the-Record Press Call with the Regional Reporters Association by White House Coordinator for Operation Allies Welcome Jack Markell and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on Operation Allies Welcome | WhiteHouse.gov
- September 15, 2021: Readout of Senior White House Meeting with Faith Leaders on Efforts to Relocate Afghan Allies | WhiteHouse.gov
- September 3, 2021: Secretary Mayorkas Delivers Remarks on Operation Allies Welcome
- September 3, 2021: Readout of Secretary Mayorkas’s Engagement with Community Leaders Regarding Operation Allies Welcome
- August 29, 2021: Memorandum on the Designation of the Department of Homeland Security as Lead Federal Department for Facilitating the Entry of Vulnerable Afghans into the United States | Whitehouse.gov
- August 29, 2021: DHS to Serve as Lead Federal Agency Coordinating Efforts to Resettle Vulnerable Afghans
- August 28, 2021: Statement by President Joe Biden on the Evacuation Mission in Kabul | WhiteHouse.gov
- August 27, 2021: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki | WhiteHouse.gov
- August 29, 2021: Memorandum on the Designation of the Department of Homeland Security as Lead Federal Department for Facilitating the Entry of Vulnerable Afghans into the United States | WhiteHouse.gov
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: How are you vetting Afghan nationals who are arriving in the U.S.? How do you know they don’t pose security risks?
- The screening and vetting process involves biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and additional intelligence community partners prior to their arrival in the United States.
- If someone fails these checks while they are still overseas, they will not be permitted to board a flight to the United States. Additionally, all Afghans are required to undergo the same process as other persons arriving from outside the US: namely, additional inspection upon arrival and a secondary inspection as the circumstances require. If, upon landing in the United States, further security vetting at the port of entry raises a concern about a person, CBP has the authority to not grant them entry into the United States.
Question: How many of the Afghan nationals who resettle are SIVs?
- We know that more than 40% of Afghans are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) because they took significant risks to support our military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan, working for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan or our coalition forces, or are a family member of someone who did. Some are SIV applicants who were already in the SIV pipeline.
- Additionally, others worked as journalists, human rights activists, or humanitarian workers and had careers that put them at risk. And many are family members of American citizens and LPRs.
Question: Are vaccines mandatory for everyone who arrives as a part of Operation Allies Welcome?
- The U.S. government continues to take every precaution to stop the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases, consistent with CDC guidance. All arrivals – U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Afghan nationals – are being tested for COVID-19 upon arriving in the United States. These individuals will also have the option to receive COVID-19 and other vaccines either at U.S. government-run sites near Washington Dulles International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport, or at a Department of Defense facility. All testing, vaccinations, and other services are available at no cost.
- For Afghan nationals who are paroled into the United States, receiving the first dose of the following vaccinations and undergoing medical screening are conditions of the parole, absent a case-by-case determination that the following are not medically appropriate:
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination, absent proof of prior vaccination;
- Polio vaccination, absent proof of prior vaccination;
- COVID-19 vaccination, absent proof of prior vaccination;
- Other age-appropriate vaccinations, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, absent proof of prior vaccinations;
- A tuberculosis screening; it will be required to take appropriate isolation and treatment measures if the tuberculosis test is positive.
Question: Where are Afghan nationals going when they arrive?
- DOD is providing temporary housing facilities for SIV applicants and other vulnerable Afghans at eight installations: Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; Fort Pickett, Virginia; Fort Lee, Virginia; Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Fort Bliss, Texas; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; and Camp Atterbury, Indiana. While on these bases, Afghans have access to a range of services, including medical care and mental health services. During this step in the process, Afghan nationals are able to apply for work authorization with USCIS personnel and are connected to resettlement services.
Benefits for Humanitarian Parolees
Are you an Afghan individual who has been granted humanitarian parole?
- You may be eligible for cash assistance, medical assistance, employment preparation, job placement, English language training, and other services offered through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). You may also be eligible for federal “mainstream” (non-ORR funded) benefits, such as cash assistance through Supplemental Security In-come (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), health insurance through Medicaid, and food assistance through Supple-mental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This document focuses on the benefits and services funded by ORR.
- Some Afghan humanitarian parolees can also receive Afghan Placement and Assistance (APA) services from local refugee resettlement agencies. To find a local refugee resettlement agency, visit: https://www.wrapsnet.org/rp-agency-contacts/
Who are Afghans with humanitarian parole?
- Certain Afghan individuals have been or will be granted humanitarian parole by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in response to their need for rapid evacuation and relocation under Operation Allies Refuge/Operation Allies Welcome. Afghan humanitarian parolees paroled into the U.S. between July 31, 2021, through September 30, 2022, are eligible to apply for main-stream benefits, resettlement assistance, and other benefits available to refugees, until March 31, 2023, or the end of their parole term, whichever is later. Spouses or children of these individuals paroled into the U.S after September 30, 2022, are also eligible to apply for these benefits.
Where do I apply for ORR benefits/ services after I arrive in the U.S.?
- ORR provides funding to state governments, resettlement agencies, and other nonprofit community-based organizations to provide benefits and services for eligible individuals. You can apply at the state government benefits office or closest resettlement agency in your state beginning on or after the date that you received humanitarian parole. For a list of state contacts go to: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/orr/grant-funding/key-state-contacts.
When should I apply for ORR benefits/services?
- Now. Do not wait. Your benefits and services are only available for a limited time. ORR-funded cash and medical assistance are limited to a maximum of eight months from your date of eligibility. For most employment services and other services aimed at economic self-sufficiency, the eligibility period is five years from your date of eligibility.
What should I bring with me?
- You should bring proof of your humanitarian parole and the date you received it. Types of proof include
- a Form I-94 noting Humanitarian Parole (per INA section 212(d)(5)(A)), a foreign passport with DHS/CBP admission stamp noting “OAR,” or a foreign passport with DHS/CBP admission stamp noting “OAW.” Each individual in a family applying for ORR benefits and services should bring their own proof and the date their humanitarian parole (or other ORR-eligible status) was granted.
What are some of the benefits and services I can receive as an Afghan humanitarian parolee?
- Some Afghan humanitarian parolees are eligible to apply for federal mainstream benefits in their state, such as cash assistance through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), health insurance through Medicaid, and food assistance through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- November 5, 2021: Fact Sheet on Operation Allies Welcome
- October 26, 2021: Fact Sheet: Private Sector Leaders Are Stepping Up to Welcome Afghans | WhiteHouse.gov
- October 1, 2021: Benefits for Afghan Humanitarian Parolees | HHS.gov
- October 25, 2021: Information Sheet for Afghan Parolees Departing Safe Havens - English (PDF, 211.48 KB) | USCIS
- October 25, 2021: Information Sheet for Afghan Parolees Departing Safe Havens – Special Immigrant Visa Attachment – English (PDF, 130.29 KB) | USCIS
- October 25, 2021: Information Sheet for Afghan Parolees Departing Safe Havens - Dari (PDF, 170.27 KB) | USCIS
- November 2, 2021: Information Sheet for Afghan Parolees Departing Safe Havens – Special Immigrant Visa Attachment – Dari (PDF, 132.56 KB) | USCIS
- October 25, 2021: Information Sheet for Afghan Parolees Departing Safe Havens - Pashto (PDF, 170.84 KB) | USCIS
- October 25, 2021: Information Sheet for Afghan Parolees Departing Safe Havens – Special Immigrant Visa Attachment – Pashto (PDF, 149.34 KB) | USCIS
- Operation Allies Welcome
- U.S. Central Command - Afghanistan Evacuation | DVIDSHub.net
- U.S. Northern Command - Operation Allies Refuge | DVIDSHub.net
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