Visa Process Improving: We Owe Our Iraqi and Afghan Colleagues -- and the American People -- Nothing Less

November 13, 2013
Outskirts of Kabul

Interpreters have worked honorably alongside U.S. troops and diplomats in Afghanistan and Iraq for more than a decade. Without their help and local knowledge, our missions would undoubtedly be more difficult and more dangerous.

These colleagues have served our country -- and theirs -- with distinction. Their bravery has saved American lives. Yet because of their work on our behalf, some of them face threats.

Consistent with our tremendous gratitude to this community, the Obama administration strongly supports the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which allows us to bring eligible individuals and their family members to safety here inside the United States.

Last month, President Obama signed legislation continuing the Iraqi SIV program until the end of the year, and we are working to extend both the Iraq and Afghanistan visa programs even further.

We have also made important improvements to the SIV application process, which are showing positive results. Following an increase in resources to improve efficiency over the last year, nearly 1,600 Afghans and their family members received Special Immigrant Visas.

This is the largest number since the program began and a tenfold increase from the previous year. Nearly 3,600 visas were issued for Iraqi interpreters, other staff, and family members in the same period, bringing the total to nearly 15,000 since 2007.

We know that every SIV issued represents an opportunity to begin a new life here in the United States, and we will continue our efforts to improve the multi-agency process. At the same time, we must continue to follow procedures that are vital to our security.

Just as we have an obligation to help those who helped us, we have a responsibility to the American people to ensure that special visa recipients -- like all those who enter the U.S.A. -- do not pose a threat.

The State Department, and the other departments and agencies, have the highest respect for the men and women who take enormous risks in helping our troops and diplomats. We are committed to helping all those who are eligible for as long as we have congressional authority to do so, in a secure and responsible manner.

We owe them, and the American people, nothing less.

About the Author: Patrick F. Kennedy serves as the Under Secretary of State for Management.

Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared as an opinion piece for USA Today.

Comments

Comments

Nader y.
|
Afghanistan
November 14, 2013
if you are really care about the people who worked with you as interpreter, why you do not take them out from Afghanistan or Iraq, and also it's clear for all US Troops, military and political agencies that the people who helped Coalition forces in Afghanistan are on risk.
khalid k.
|
Afghanistan
November 14, 2013
It is a great help of usa with those who work with usa thanks
Dhaneesh S.
|
India
November 14, 2013
I am ready to work
Mohammad Z.
|
Afghanistan
November 14, 2013
Thanks for the SIV program for afghan people that they have worked with US and ISAF troops
Naqeebullah N.
|
Afghanistan
November 14, 2013
Dear Sir, please advise how we apply
nijib a.
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Afghanistan
November 14, 2013
money appreciate from united state government, the are relay help afghan people since 2001 all of the afghan interpreter the are under risk/ but the are still continue his job bravely with American troops
mass k.
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Afghanistan
November 14, 2013
Great news, thanks for reconsideration.
Noor A.
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Afghanistan
November 14, 2013
I has been worked for US army as cultural advisor at FOB Orgune from Jan 2008 to Jan 2010. I want to apply for SIV please give me instructions. Thanks.
sarferaz m.
|
Afghanistan
November 14, 2013
Greatttttttttt
Hussam A.
|
United States
November 14, 2013
our pleasure to work with you guys ! so many people have worked less than a year and the SIV program matches with people who have worked more than a year. But I have got a question ... what about those people who have applied for the IOM ?? Arent you guys willing to help them ? I have a lot to talk about ... by the way I have been under serious threat ! and still in iraq.
J E.
|
United States
November 14, 2013
So why does the State Department yell at me every time I call asking for assistance on my husband's SIV case?? There has been nothing done despite my/our pleas to Senator Cornyn, Congressman Castro and various other representatives who refuse to help me because I am not in their state. Matt Zeller got help from outside his district, why can't I? Bringing 1,000 people under the Afghan SIV program when there are 8,000 visas available is nothing to be proud of. New ways of processing to discourage redundant practices are necessary if you want people to believe the US actually cares about its interpreters. If nothing is changed, don't be surprised when next conflict yields no native help due to distrust of US policies.
Mirage K.
|
Afghanistan
November 14, 2013
Thank you for considering this issue. I applied for SIV program on 2011 and my interview was conducted at the US embassy in Kabul more than 45 weeks ago. US embassy in Kabul is not responding to my emails regarding my SIV case. I hope this improving give me a good news on my visa process.
shirzad g.
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Afghanistan
November 16, 2013
It's a agood idea like it and thanks alot that's really the truth and as well as if u guys make it easyer then the last SIV im mean almost last it well be vry nice i really thanks from USA that they have been helping our people and provieding good apportunaties for interpreter.
Massoud S.
|
Afghanistan
November 17, 2013
we all appreciate from united state efforts for supporting and saving afghan life and prepare them a peace full life ( MASSOUD SAMANDARY) ( MOHAMMAD DAUD BAHADURY)
Haseeb R.
|
Alabama, USA
November 20, 2013
Can somebody apply for this visa if he has worked for IMF, World Bank or any other organization? Thanks
Rahim N.
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Afghanistan
November 26, 2013
This is really good news! I have worked with ADT US Army since 2009 until April 2013. The first time when I was joining my job with ADT, they told me after one year you can apply for Visa to US, and my job was Information Operation Culture Advisor, means I have recorded video and audio programs in FOB and broadcasted from local TV. so if united state do not help us and leave us here a lone, it means they are not supporting their troops, because we also had the same job as American troops had and we joined all missions with them. I hope the improve and do not let us a lone!

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