A program with a unique exchange between the US government and civilians in Afghanistan is set to resume and hand out 3,500 more visas. A conference report released Thursday stated, "The conferees believe the special immigrant visa program continues to be critical for the US government’s operations in Afghanistan."
The report refers to a special immigrant visa program which is meant to help Afghans who assisted US troops and are now in danger of being killed. Those Afghans who help troops by translating or otherwise assisting them will be given visas to come to America. The program was essentially halted earlier this year due to a lack of available visas and now it is set to resume.
The US Embassy in Kabul stopped interviewing applicants in March and indicated it would not resume without Congressional action.
Now, Congress has approved 2,500 more visas included in a spending bill in May which allowed the program to continue. The Senate passed a version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which would add 4,000 more visa's but the version passed by Congress did not include the additional visas.
One supporter of the program, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, was pleased with the compromise of 3,500 new visas in the final version calling the victory the "first of many" investments in the visa program. Shaheen issued a statement on the matter saying, "Afghan civilian interpreters risk their safety and the welfare of their families to aid US forces."
Shaheen went on to say, "Their service to our nation and mission in Afghanistan has saved American lives on and off the battlefield. I’m glad to see support from Congress for my effort to authorize additional visas so we can ensure the protection of our courageous interpreters and support staff."
The program to give visas to Afghans who risk their lives to help US troops started in 2009 and gave out 1,500 visas annually.
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