The Secretaries of Homeland Security and State, in consultation with the Attorney General, announced three new exemptions that can be applied on a case-by-case basis to ensure that Afghans who would otherwise be eligible for the benefit or protection they are seeking are not automatically denied. Among other things, the exemptions will “ensure that individuals who have lived under Taliban rule, such as former civil servants, those required to pay service fees to the Taliban to do things like pass through a checkpoint or obtain a passport, and those who fought against the Taliban are not mistakenly barred because of overly broad applications of terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds (TRIG) in our immigration law,” a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) media release said.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that “[d]octors, teachers, engineers, and other Afghans, including those who bravely and loyally supported U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan at great risk to their safety, should not be denied humanitarian protection and other immigration benefits due to their inescapable proximity to war or their work as civil servants.” He said the exemptions will “allow eligible individuals who pose no national security or public safety risk to receive asylum, refugee status, or other legal immigration status, demonstrating the United States’ continued commitment to our Afghan allies and their family members.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Department of State remains “committed to our Afghan allies and processing Special Immigrant Visa applications as expeditiously as possible, while always protecting our national security.”
DHS said the new exemptions “may” apply to:
- Afghans who supported U.S. military interests, specifically Afghan allies who fought or otherwise supported those who fought in the resistance movement against the Taliban and Afghans who took part in the conflict against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
- Individuals employed as civil servants in Afghanistan at any time from September 27, 1996, to December 22, 2001, or after August 15, 2021. This could include teachers, professors, postal workers, doctors, and engineers, among others. It does not include individuals who held high-level positions, worked for certain ministries, or directly assisted violent Taliban activities or activities in which the individual’s civil service was motivated by an allegiance to the Taliban.
- Individuals who provided insignificant or certain limited material support to a designated terrorist organization. This could apply in limited circumstances where the support is incidental to a routine social or commercial transaction; incidental to certain humanitarian assistance; provided in response to a reasonably perceived threat of physical or economic harm, restraint, or serious harassment; and where the support provided is considered minimal and inconsequential. Due to the Taliban’s presence and control of entities, roads, and utilities, many individuals who lived in Afghanistan needed to interact with the Taliban in ways that, absent such an exemption, render them inadmissible to the United States under U.S. law, DHS said.