WASHINGTON -- The US government is streamlining immigration procedures for recent Afghan arrivals to speed up their resettlement in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Monday (November 8).
About 70,000 Afghans have landed in the United States as part of "Operation Allies Welcome", launched amid the August evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan.
DHS is the main US government agency co-ordinating Operation Allies Welcome, which is the ongoing inter-agency effort to resettle vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked on behalf of the United States.
Afghans who arrived in the United States on or after July 30 this year will be able to take advantage of simplified procedures to get a "green card", or permanent resident status, as well as various work permits, the DHS said in a statement.
They also will not have to pay filing fees, which can run up to thousands of dollars.
"By providing these evacuees with access to streamlined processing and fee exemptions, we will open doors of opportunity for our Afghan allies and help them begin to rebuild their lives in communities across our country more quickly," said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
"These actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to Afghan nationals who provided valuable assistance to the United States over the past two decades, as well as other Afghans at risk," he said.
Afghan nationals may also apply for immigration benefits such as Afghan special immigrant status, lawful permanent residence and asylum, the DHS statement said.
More than 120,000 people were evacuated from Kabul as part of a complicated and arduous operation after the Taliban seized power in August, including diplomats, foreign nationals and tens of thousands of Afghans.
The commander of US military forces on the ground in Afghanistan and Washington's ambassador there, Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue and Ross Wilson, were the last to board the final evacuation flight from Kabul August 30, US Central Command (CENTCOM) commander Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon at the time.
"Tonight's withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11, 2001," he said.
The evacuation at the airport was the largest non-combatant evacuation operation ever conducted by the US military.
Operations began on August 14 and ended August 30.
In total, US military aircraft evacuated more than 79,000 civilians from Kabul airport, including about 5,500 Americans and more than 73,500 third country nationals and Afghan civilians.
"In total, US and coalition aircraft combined to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians, which were all enabled by US military service members who were securing and operating the airfield," McKenzie said.
"On average we have evacuated more than 7,500 civilians per day over the 18 days of the mission, which includes 16 full days of evacuations, and more than 19,000 on a single day."