In a letter to majority and minority leaders in the US senate and house of representatives, 41 organisations urged legislators to introduce a range of measures to allow displaced Afghans to join “the millions of international students and scholars who have contributed to the cultural and intellectual vibrancy of [US] campuses and to our national economic prosperity”.
Students and scholars currently not in Afghanistan, but unable to arrive in the US, need additional support, advocates said.
“We have already heard reports of students with Afghan citizenship… being denied a student visa”
“We have already heard reports of students with Afghan citizenship applying to study in the US from third countries being denied a student visa because they cannot demonstrate intent to return to Afghanistan after their program of study,” the letter noted.
F-1, M-1, and J-1 student and scholar visa program should have non-immigrant intent removed for those from Afghanistan, or at least the requirement should be “satisfied by an intent to return when conditions in Afghanistan are normalised or to return to a third country”, it said.
Additional USAID fund should support displaced scholars in third countries who are waiting to travel to the US. And funding should be extended for those now in third countries, previously on USAID grants in Afghanistan who are unable to access USAID grant funding, as it was tied to work in Afghanistan.
The Department of Homeland Security is urged to designate Afghanistan as Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure, to allow those entering the US on various visa programs to remain safe from deportation, the organisations urged.
Other measures they suggested include US Citizenship and Immigration Services waiving current rules around off-campus work for Afghanistan student visa holders, and other specific groups from parts of the world that are experiencing emergent circumstances.
USCIS and DOS should have additional funding to process Afghans’ visas and green card applications, they added.