Assistance for Afghans Toolkit

Last Updated

May 25, 2022

Tens of thousands of Afghan citizens have been evacuated from Afghanistan and are present in the United States. The majority were paroled into the United States and have a two year, temporary status. Refugee resettlement agencies and other community organizations are helping them secure access to housing, employment, food, cash and medical assistance programs. Other nonprofit agencies are providing immigration-related assistance, such as filing for humanitarian parole, Special Immigrant Visa, or SIV, status, asylum, family-based visas, and employment authorization.

For individuals who remain in Afghanistan, practitioners may consider applying for humanitarian parole through USCIS for their clients in Afghanistan who are at special risk. We are providing a link to a cover letter and model Form I-131. Please note that processing for humanitarian parole applications typically takes several months and USCIS is experiencing a backlog due to the number of applications received. Parole is not intended to be used to avoid the typical refugee process or to provide protection to individuals at generalized risk of harm around the world. Many practitioners have begun to report that USCIS is applying a high standard in determining whether to grant humanitarian parole to an Afghan national.

When deciding whether to grant humanitarian parole to an Afghan citizen, USCIS will look to factors like the specific vulnerabilities of the individual seeking parole, such as his or her age, disability or sexual orientation. They will also look at factors like the imminence or severity of potential harm, family ties to the United States, and whether there is already a refugee process that the applicant can access. If the request for humanitarian parole is based on concerns of imminent harm to the individual, USCIS will require corroborating evidence of that claimed, specific harm from a credible, third-party source.

USCIS has indicated that it will consider the following to be strongly favorable categories of cases:

  • The immediate family of a US citizen (spouse, unmarried children under 21, and parents).  However, applicants should also be prepared to explain why they are unable to pursue the typical family-based immigration process;
  • The spouse and unmarried children under 21 of an LPR. Similarly, applicants should be prepared to explain why they are unable to pursue the typical family-based immigration process;
  • Locally employed staff of the U.S. embassy in Kabul and their immediate family (spouse and unmarried children under 21);
  • SIV applicants whose applications have received COM approval; and
  • Immediate relatives of Afghan nationals previously evacuated to the United States through Operation Allies Welcome (including the spouse, unmarried child under 21, and, in the case of unaccompanied minors, their primary caregiver, including but not limited to a parent or legal guardian, and the spouse and dependent children under 21 of the primary caregiver).

Advocates should carefully consider the unique circumstances of each applicant’s case when deciding whether to file a humanitarian parole application. USCIS has wide discretion in determining whether to grant or deny a humanitarian parole application and there are no guarantees of approval, even in compelling cases. Applicants who have a possible pathway to immigrate through the family-based immigration process or the SIV process, for example, may consider pursuing those options instead, given the delays in adjudicating humanitarian parole applications and the high standard that USCIS is applying when considering these applications.

Note that because the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan is closed, any beneficiary of an approved humanitarian parole application will need to be able to reach a third country to obtain their travel document at the U.S. embassy or consulate in that country. USCIS will issue only a “conditional approval” letter to the Afghan citizen and advise that the individual should contact USCIS via email at once that individual has arrived in a third country and can process the travel document through the U.S. embassy or consulate in that country. USCIS has indicated that it is devoting more resources to humanitarian parole applications for Afghans who are already in a third country, although it is allocating some resources to humanitarian parole applications filed by those who remain in Afghanistan.

CLINIC Resources:

CLINIC has prepared a number of resources to aid practitioners helping Afghan citizens.

DHS resources:

USCIS has posted resources on Afghanistan, including the process for Afghan nationals to apply for humanitarian parole as well as immigration relief available to those present in the United States:

Additional Resources: