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Afghan citizens who worked with the U.S. are still waiting in third-party countries for their promised American visas eight months after leaving Afghanistan.
“We are actively processing visa applications for Afghans seeking to come to the United States, including by assisting Afghans who qualify for SIVs because they were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government or by the International Security Assistance Force or its successor,” a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital.
“After taking office, we worked to reduce the processing time for SIV eligible Afghans, while keeping in place our robust security and medical screening processes,” the spokesperson added.
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The Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghan citizens provides a path for former employees or contractors who worked with the State Department or other American entities. Many of these applicants remain in pending status as the State Department continues to review their eligibility, but the wait time has started to wear away at them and their families.
“After collaborating with the U.S. government evacuation airlift, I came to know of many incredible Afghan allies who were not lucky enough to get out of Afghanistan before the operation concluded,” Amed Khan, a human rights advocate and philanthropist, told Fox News Digital. “I took it upon myself to evacuate and look after as many of these heroes as I could with a focus on at-risk women leaders and others who served the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.“
“We made a point of evacuating people who had paperwork to get on the U.S. military evacuation flights but could not make it into the airport due to the overall chaos,” he explained. “The people we are looking after in transit countries like Greece have long-standing advanced SIV and P1/P2 applications. We were fortunate enough to be able to rescue these people from death at the hands of the Taliban, but now they risk languishing for years unless the U.S. government makes a concerted effort to process their cases as quickly as possible.”
Faridoon Hazeen, one such SIV candidate, has been in Greece since the end of November 2021 awaiting progress on his application.
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“The airline that took us out of Kabul, out to Georgia, it belonged to the government of Afghanistan,” Hazeen said of his family’s Nov. 22 journey. “The former government of Afghanistan called that Afghan airlines. So we were taken to Georgia… then we were taken to the Sala Nikita, one of the provinces of Greece, by Aegean flight, which belonged to the government of Greece and a Greek government on the same date.”
Hazeen assisted the U.S. with its Corrections System Support Program, which the State Department established to help the Afghan government overhaul its prison system to meet international standards, since 2012.
Following his family’s evacuation from Afghanistan in November 2021, he remained in limbo until just last week when he finally heard that he will now have his interview. He sent numerous emails before finally hearing back.
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His story is far from unique: Faridoon counted roughly 30 people in Greece with him who are similarly waiting for their visas, in some cases only getting clearance to travel to Canada in the meantime.
Latifa, who worked with American companies to develop opportunities for women in Afghanistan, last week learned that her family has received approval to travel to Canada, she told Fox News Digital. She received approval for her visa prior to leaving Afghanistan, but the embassy closed before she could finalize the process.
She traveled to Greece, where she had to start the process over again and has waited for months to reach America. The approval for travel to Canada is a welcome change, but she finds it an uncomfortable one.
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“The rule changes on me, on my kids that I have to go now to the very new system of Canada that I am not much familiar with them, I never went there,” she said. “I do not know about the education system … the system is very different from the United States, and I was so much familiar with the American system through the work for my career.”
“So this is the big concern how to match again with the new location,” she continued, noting that she has worked with a Canadian organization so has some ties to the country. “I was lucky to have to work with a Canadian organization in Afghanistan, but other people are here.”
Latifa said it seems to take six months for the cases to even start, saying that the embassies might “lack people.”
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“There are many people because we are a community of Afghans that immigrated,” she explained. “Among them are four or five families that have savings somewhere and medical space. Some are on other cases, but there is no very clear response to them as well because no one knows.”