Afghan FAQ

General FAQs

By what date may I apply for Chief of Mission approval?

Who is the Chief of Mission (COM)?

How do I transfer my SI or SQ Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) case from one embassy or consulate to another?

What about my family? Can my family members immigrate with me?

If I have already been scheduled for an interview or have been interviewed as a refugee, but am also eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa, which application should I pursue?

If I have a record of disciplinary actions that have been taken against me, will I be automatically disqualified from receiving a visa under this program?

What happens if the principal applicant dies after approval of the petition?

Document FAQs

The Emergency Supplemental Security Appropriations Act, 2021, enacted on July 30, 2021, decreased the required length of service to one year for Afghan applicants. What required length of service must I demonstrate?

What is required in the HR letter from my employer?

Who may submit the letter of recommendation?

What if I am unable to locate or need assistance contacting my former U.S. military or Department of Defense supervisor?

What if it is not possible for me, as a contract employee employed on behalf of the U.S. government, to obtain this recommendation from a U.S. citizen supervisor?

Why do applicants who were employed by contractors or subcontractors on behalf of the U.S. government qualify for the SIV program, but applicants who were employed by contractors or subcontractors on behalf of ISAF, or a successor mission, do not?

I began working for ISAF and I now work for Resolute Support Mission (RSM) following the transition from ISAF to RSM. Will I qualify for the program?

Is there a template or format for the letter of recommendation?

Filing FAQs

When the numerical limit of visas is reached, will my petition be rejected and have to be refiled?

Resettlement Benefits FAQs

As an Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipient, am I eligible for any benefits?

Am I eligible for Resettlement Benefits?

The instructions on the "Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)" state that it is to be completed by each beneficiary. Does that mean each member of my family needs to complete a form or is one form sufficient for all family members included on the SIV case?

How do I obtain a travel loan?

What if I have to travel immediately and cannot arrange travel through the International Organization for Migration (IOM)?

How will I know which agency is responsible for providing services to me in the U.S.?

If I elect to receive refugee benefits, what help will I receive once I am in the U.S., and from whom?

What if I already have a file with UNHCR or a UN number? What should I do?

Are other benefits available to me, if I decline benefits from the Department of State?

Interview FAQs

If I am in Afghanistan, can my interview be conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul?

May my family accompany me or follow to join me in the United States?

May an attorney or other representative accompany me to the visa interview?

Will the U.S. government pay the cost of my travel to the interview or provide accommodations at the interview site?

Can the U.S. Embassy arrange for my entry visas and guarantee admission to another country for my visa interview?

Is there a visa application fee?

Will I receive my visa on the same day as my interview?

At what point can I begin to make travel arrangements, sell property, and/or give up my job?

Project Rabbit

What challenge does Project Rabbit seek to address?

Can Project Rabbit assist all Afghan SIV applicants who were employed by DoD contractors?

Are other agencies/offices outside of DoD using Project Rabbit?

How do Afghan SIV applicants who were employed by DoD contractors take advantage of Project Rabbit?

Can Project Rabbit expedite other Steps in the Afghan SIV process or provide emergency assistance?

 

General FAQs

By what date may I apply for Chief of Mission approval?

You must submit an application including, at a minimum, name, date of birth, evidence of Afghan nationality, and an email address, to the National Visa Center (NVC) no later than December 31, 2023.  However, only complete Chief of Mission (COM) applications containing all required documents and information will be accepted and forwarded to the COM designee for a decision. Applicants who meet the December 31, 2023 deadline may provide additional required information or documentation following that date.

Who is the Chief of Mission (COM)?

The Chief of Mission (COM) is the principal officer in charge of a diplomatic mission.  [Pursuant to section 602(b)(2)(D)(i) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-8), COM approval functions required for an SIV may be performed by a designee of the appropriate Chief of Mission.  This individual is called the Chief of Mission Designee or COM Designee.] 

How do I transfer my SI or SQ Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) case from one embassy or consulate to another?

[You may only transfer your SIV case to a specific embassy or consulate once it has reached to interview stage, and the receiving embassy or consulate must have immigrant visa processing capabilities.] If you would like to transfer your SI or SQ SIV case to another embassy or consulate, please follow the steps below:

  • If your case is already at a U.S. Embassy or consulate and you want to transfer it to a different one, write to the U.S. embassy or consulate that you want to transfer to, including a justification for the request and specifying whether you are a resident of that country. 

  • If your SIV case is being processed at the National Visa Center (NVC) and has not yet been assigned to an embassy or consulate, you can request a U.S. embassy or consulate of your choice (as long as it processes immigrant visas) by contacting the NVC at  NVCSIV@state.gov.  In limited circumstances, NVC may need to contact you for additional information.  Note that transferring your case might not result in immediate processing.  Please be advised that due to COVID-19 many posts are operating at limited capacity.

What about my family? Can my family members immigrate with me?

Your spouse, as well as unmarried children younger than age 21, may be granted SIVs, and may travel with you or may follow to join you after you have been admitted to the United States. Your family may not immigrate to the United States on their SIVs before you.

If I have already been scheduled for an interview or have been interviewed as a refugee, but am also eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa, which application should I pursue?

You determine which route you choose to pursue. Both processes take several months to complete. Registration and application for either program is not a guarantee of eventual admission to the United States. The refugee and SIV programs have different application processes and eligibility requirements, but the resettlement support and other benefits upon admission to the United States are the same for both. Please consult the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration website for more information about accessing the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

If I have a record of disciplinary actions that have been taken against me, will I be automatically disqualified from receiving a visa under this program?

The Chief of Mission, or his/her designee, will assess the gravity of the reasons for the disciplinary action and whether your record as a whole, notwithstanding the disciplinary actions, is one of faithful and valuable service. It will generally be more difficult for you to demonstrate faithful and valuable service if the record reflects that disciplinary action has been taken against you.

What happens if the principal applicant dies after approval of the petition?

A spouse or child may, in some circumstances, still be eligible for a special immigrant visa if before his death the principal applicant submitted a COM application listing the spouse or child as accompanying him.

Document FAQs

The Emergency Supplemental Security Appropriations Act, 2021, enacted on July 30, 2021, decreased the required length of service to one year for Afghan applicants. What required length of service must I demonstrate?

All applicants for Chief of Mission (COM) approval must demonstrate one year of qualifying service. You are considered to have submitted an application for Chief of Mission (COM) approval if you sent an email to the National Visa Center indicating you are seeking COM approval and providing, at a minimum, your name, date of birth, evidence of Afghan nationality, and email address. 

What is required in the HR letter from my employer?

  • The HR letter should confirm that you were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government, or by ISAF or a successor mission, for at least one year and must include the details outlined in the  Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval (PDF - 509 KB).

  • Afghans employed by an organization under a U.S. grant or cooperative agreement are not eligible for the SIV program; if you are unsure of whether this is the case, please inquire with your HR department before you apply for Chief of Mission approval. Afghans who were employed by contractors or subcontractors to work at ISAF, or a successor mission, do not qualify for the SIV program.

Who may submit the letter of recommendation?

What if I am unable to locate or need assistance contacting my former U.S. military or Department of Defense supervisor?

  • The National Visa Center is not able to contact third parties to assist in the location of your former supervisor. You must supply a letter of recommendation or evaluation from your direct, U.S. citizen supervisor or the person currently occupying that position, or a more senior person, if your direct supervisor has left the employer or has left Afghanistan.

What if it is not possible for me, as a contract employee employed on behalf of the U.S. government, to obtain this recommendation from a U.S. citizen supervisor?

  • You should provide a letter of recommendation signed by your non-U.S. citizen supervisor and co-signed by the U.S. citizen who is responsible for the contract. The letter must include the details outlined in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval.

  • Afghans who were employed by contractors or subcontractors to work at ISAF, or a successor mission, do not qualify for the SIV program.

Why do applicants who were employed by contractors or subcontractors on behalf of the U.S. government qualify for the SIV program, but applicants who were employed by contractors or subcontractors on behalf of ISAF, or a successor mission, do not?

  • Section 1227 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2015, which expanded the program to include certain Afghans who were employed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and section 1216 of the NDAA for FY 2016, which expands the program to include Afghans who were employed by successor missions to ISAF, do not include contractors or subcontractors with ISAF, or successor missions.  Section 1227 of the FY 2015 NDAA states only that qualifying applicants must be employed “by the International Security Assistance Force,” interpreted to include direct hires by ISAF or ISAF member nations. While section 1216 of the FY 2016 NDAA expanded qualification for the SIV program to certain Afghans employed by successor missions to ISAF, the language did not include contractors and subcontractors.

I began working for ISAF and I now work for Resolute Support Mission (RSM) following the transition from ISAF to RSM. Will I qualify for the program?

  • You may qualify if you have a total of at least one year of employment between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2023 with ISAF, or a successor mission, in a capacity that required you to serve as an interpreter or translator while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF, or a successor mission, or to perform activities for U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF, or a successor mission.

Is there a template or format for the letter of recommendation?

  • There is no required format, but the letter must include the details outlined in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval. Generic form letters from supervisors are not helpful to your application. All letters of recommendation should be proofread closely.  Letters of recommendation with significant spelling and grammar errors may delay processing.

Filing FAQs

When the numerical limit of visas is reached, will my petition be rejected and have to be refiled?

  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process each petition, even after the numerical limit of visas has been reached. When your petition has been approved, it will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). If visas are available, NVC will contact you to schedule the visa interview. If visas are no longer available, NVC will hold the petition.

Resettlement Benefits FAQs

As an Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipient, am I eligible for any benefits?

  • Yes. Afghan SIV recipients are eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Resettlement assistance is available under section 602(b) of Division F, Title VI, of the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2009, Public Law 111-8 to Afghans who are admitted to the United States on Special Immigrant Visas, for a period not to exceed eight months. For more information about the relevant U.S. law, see References - U.S. Laws, number 7.

The U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program covers only your first 30-90 days in the United States.

Am I eligible for Resettlement Benefits?

Yes. Afghan special immigrants are eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, for a period of up to eight (8) months after being admitted to the United States.

If you wish to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program, which provides basic living assistance and limited support for up to the first 30 – 90 days after you arrive, you must apply for it before you arrive in the United States.

To apply, you must return scanned, signed copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form (PDF - 364 KB) (signature required) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB) included in the visa instruction packet for each family member immigrating with you to the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) at SIV_OPE@IOM.int as soon as possible but no later than 10 calendar days after the date your visa is issued. In addition, you must submit to RPCa scanned copy of your visa as soon as possible but no later than 30 calendar days prior to the visa’s expiration. You should not wait to submit the Refugee Benefits Election Form and the Special Immigrant Biodata Form (DS-0234) until visa issuance. All three items must be received by NVC prior to the deadlines indicated above. Failure to do so will result in the denial of any future request for Department of State-funded resettlement benefits. Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

If you decline Department of State-funded resettlement benefits, you may still be eligible to receive benefits funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). Unlike Department of State-funded benefits, HHS/ORR-funded benefits can be claimed upon arrival in the United States. Additional information about HHS/ORR-funded benefits can be found here.

Per the instructions on the "Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)", it is to be completed by each beneficiary.

Does that mean each member of my family needs to complete a form or is one form sufficient for all family members included on the SIV case?

You must complete a separate form for each family member and return it to the National Visa Center (NVC) at NVCSIV@state.gov or the RPC at SIV@wrapsnet.org.

How do I obtain a travel loan?

  • The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will prepare your travel loan and arrange your travel to the United States after your visa has been issued, if you elected to receive travel and resettlement assistance from the Department of State by submitting scanned, signed copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form (PDF - 364 KB) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB) to the National Visa Center (NVC) or the Refugee Processing Center (RPC). This interest-free travel loan is a benefit provided through the U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program, for which you must apply while you are still overseas. Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

What if I have to travel immediately and cannot arrange travel through the International Organization for Migration (IOM)?

  • Under certain circumstances, we understand you may not have time to declare your intention to participate in the Reception and Placement (R&P) Program while still overseas. If you elect to arrange your own flight, you may still be eligible for Department of State resettlement benefits or benefits funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). To determine if you qualify, please contact a resettlement affiliate as soon as possible after your arrival in the United States as your eligibility is time-limited.  We recommend you contact a resettlement affiliate within 30 days after your arrival. The list of resettlement affiliates can be found on http://www.wrapsnet.org or click here.

How will I know which agency is responsible for providing services to me in the U.S.?

  • If you choose to receive Department of State-funded Reception and Placement (R&P) services, you must fill out and return scanned copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form (PDF - 364 KB), the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB), and of your visa, after it has been issued, to the  Refugee Processing Center (RPC) while still overseas. Once you submit the copy of your issued visa, your case will be assigned to a resettlement agency before you depart for the United States. Prior to departure, the entity responsible for processing your case for R&P benefits - either a Resettlement Support Center (RSC) or the RPC - will provide you with an Assurance Form indicating your final destination in the United States and the resettlement agency that will provide services to you upon your arrival.

If I elect to receive refugee benefits, what help will I receive once I am in the U.S., and from whom?

The Department of State funds nine (9) Resettlement Agencies that participate in the Reception and Placement (R&P) Program under a cooperative agreement. These agencies have over 300 affiliated Reception and Placement offices across the United States. The resettlement agency is responsible for providing initial reception and placement services and assisting refugees and SIV beneficiaries to achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible. All refugees and SIV recipients who elected to participate in the program are provided with sponsorship and resettlement services appropriate to their personal circumstances by one of these organizations.

The U.S. government has established guidelines and provides funding for the resettlement services that you will receive upon arrival in the United States. Your resettlement agency will have a local office in or near the town where you will be resettled and will provide basic living assistance and support for up to the first 30-90 days after you arrive. The following are some of the things you should expect to do and/or receive during your first weeks in the United States.

The resettlement agency to which you are assigned will:

  • Receive U.S. government funds and use these funds to pay for your rent and/or basic necessities. A portion of these funds may be given directly to you in cash. The resettlement agency will ensure you have a small amount of money for daily needs.
  • Ensure you have housing for your first 30 days.
  • Assist with enrolling your children in school.
  • Assist you with access to English language classes, if necessary.

With assistance from the resettlement agency, if needed, you will need to:

  • Apply for a Social Security card, required for work.
  • Learn about and be assisted with access to employment services. (While the resettlement agency will assist in whatever way it can, it is ultimately your responsibility to find and maintain employment.)
  • Learn to use public transportation (a car will not be provided).
  • Begin to learn about U.S. customs and law.
  • Learn about and be assisted with access to community services that can help you, including social services, cash and medical assistance, and food stamps, if necessary.
  • Find out about other government services and programs and how to access them.

The program would not succeed without volunteers in communities across the United States to assist with these activities. The following organizations provide initial resettlement services to refugees and SIV recipients. You may learn more about them from information provided in their websites.

Agency

Agency Website

Church World Service (CWS)

www.churchworldservice.org

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM)

www.episcopalchurch.org/emm

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)

www.ecdcinternational.org

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)

www.hias.org

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

www.rescue.org

Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS)

www.lirs.org

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

www.refugees.org

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

http://usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/

World Relief (WR)

https://worldrelief.org

What if I already have a file with UNHCR or a UN number? What should I do?

If you meet the eligibility criteria of the SIV Program, you may apply for an SIV even if you are already registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and/or have an application pending with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

Are other benefits available to me, if I decline benefits from the Department of State?

If you decline to receive Department of State-funded resettlement benefits, you may still be eligible to receive benefits funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). HHS/ORR-funded benefits are administered by states and are available through state benefit-granting agencies. After arrival in the United States, you may apply for these benefits in the state in which you reside. SIV recipients who elect to participate in the U.S. Department of State Reception and Placement (R&P) Program will be assisted in applying for HHS/ORR-funded benefits by the resettlement agency providing their R&P services. If you do not elect to participate in the Department of State’s R&P Program, you must apply for these benefits on your own by contacting the State Refugee Coordinator in the U.S. state in which you live.

Interview FAQs

If I am in Afghanistan, can my interview be conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul?

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, is currently closed for interviews.  If you are in another country, the interview will be conducted at the closest U.S. embassy or consulate that adjudicates immigrant visa applications.  You can find a list of our embassies and consulates at http://www.usembassy.gov.

May my family accompany me or follow to join me in the United States?

Yes, your spouse, as well as your unmarried children under age 21, may accompany you to the United States or follow to join you in the United States. Any family members age 14 or over must also attend the visa interview. You must provide proof of the marriage relationship to your spouse and the parental relationship to your children. Your family members may not enter the United States before you.

You must bring your spouse and children age 14 or over with you to your visa interview. This will facilitate having all eligible family members travel to the United States together. If it is not possible for your family members to travel to the interview with you, they will be required to schedule interviews at a later date and may follow to join you in the United States at a later time.

If you marry, or have a child, after your SIV petition is approved but before you travel to the United States, your new spouse or child may be added to the original petition. You should immediately contact the U.S. embassy or consulate where your interview took place, to notify consular officials that your new spouse or child should be added to the petition and an interview scheduled. If you marry a non-U.S. national after you have already traveled to the United States, you may file a family-based petition for your spouse.

May an attorney or other representative accompany me to the visa interview?

An attorney or other accredited representative may represent you during the SIV application process, including at relevant interviews and examinations. Such representation is not to be the expense of the U.S. government.

Will the U.S. government pay the cost of my travel to the interview or provide accommodations at the interview site?

No. When preparing for your visa interview, please plan for the possibility that you may need to stay for more than one day in the city where your interview takes place. You will not be able to complete your medical examination and interview on the same day. Some medical exams may require tests with delayed results.

Can the U.S. Embassy arrange for my entry visas and guarantee admission to another country for my visa interview?

No. While embassies and consulates work closely with their host-country counterparts to ensure coordination on important programs, such as this SIV program, the final decision about whom to admit into a country rests with the government of that country. If you have difficulty entering another country for your visa interview, you may request your case be transferred to another immigrant visa issuing post. To request a case transfer, contact the post where your case is currently scheduled for interview.

Is there a visa application fee?

No. Under this particular program, there is no immigrant visa application fee. You are required to pay all costs associated with the medical examination.

Will I receive my visa on the same day as my interview?

At the conclusion of your interview, the consular officer will let you know if there are any problems with your case that might prevent issuance of a visa, or if there is missing documentation that you need to provide. However, even if your SIV visa interview is successful, you will not receive your visa on the same day. All SIV cases require additional administrative processing after the interview.

At what point can I begin to make travel arrangements, sell property, and/or give up my job?

You should NOT sell property and/or give up employment until the U.S. embassy or consulate has issued an SIV visa and the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) has referred your case to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for travel arrangements.

Project Rabbit

What challenge does Project Rabbit seek to address?

Project Rabbit seeks to assist Afghan SIV applicants who are unable to locate or contact former employers in order to obtain an employment verification letter and/or a letter of recommendation. Project Rabbit interfaces with participating DoD contractors to assist in matching contractor provided human resources (HR) data and employment records with information included in SIV applications submitted to the Department of State. 

Can Project Rabbit assist all Afghan SIV applicants who were employed by DoD contractors?

Project Rabbit only assists with employment verification for Afghan SIV applicants who worked for participating employers. If an applicant worked for a DoD contractor who is not currently participating in Project Rabbit, efforts will be made to contact the employer and invite them to participate. Employer participation in Project Rabbit is voluntary.   

Are other agencies/offices outside of DoD using Project Rabbit?

Currently, only DoD is participating in Project Rabbit. SIV applicants who worked in support of other U.S. government entities should follow the instructions on this site.

How do Afghan SIV applicants who were employed by DoD contractors take advantage of Project Rabbit?

Step 1:  Apply for a Special Immigrant Visa

  • Scroll to Step 1 of the SIV application process on this page.
  • Complete as much of the application as possible (Form DS-157, evidence of nationality, biographic data, copy of employee badge (if available), etc.)
  • If the applicant already has an employment verification letter or a letter of recommendation, they should include the letters in their application.
  • If the applicant has been unable to obtain an employment verification letter or a letter of recommendation, they should submit all other available documentation with their application.
  • The applicant should NOT wait to apply just because they do not have all the documentation.

Step 2:  Wait to receive a NVCSIV case number from the State Department

Step 3:  Project Rabbit pulls active SIV cases from the State Department on a recurring basis

  • A SIV case is considered active after a NVCSIV case number is assigned.
  • Project Rabbit filters SIV cases by employer to identify those associated with applicants who reported that they worked in support of a DoD contract.
  • This process happens automatically.  The applicant DOES NOT need to contact DoD or take any action.

Step 4:  Project Rabbit forwards active SIV cases to participating employers for employment verification

  • Participating employers will try to match information in the SIV application with HR data and employment records to complete the employment verification data fields.
  • Participating employers will complete as many data fields as possible for each SIV case they receive and submit the data back to Project Rabbit.

Step 5:  Project Rabbit forwards employment verification data to the State Department

  • The State Department will review the employment verification data provided by Project Rabbit, combined with additional data received from the SIV applicant and obtained from other sources, to determine the eligibility of the SIV application for further processing.

Can Project Rabbit expedite other Steps in the Afghan SIV process or provide emergency assistance?

No, Project Rabbit can only assist with the employment verification portion of the Chief of Mission (COM) approval application (Step 1 of the Afghan SIV application process). Project Rabbit cannot aid with additional Steps in the process or provide emergency assistance.