WASHINTON: US Department of Homeland Security allows Afghan refugees in the United States to stay for at least 18 months under temporary protected status.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said by announcing the decision “This TPS designation will help to protect Afghan nationals who have already been living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions.”
The move will help some of the thousands of Afghans who arrived following the chaotic American withdrawal from their country.
The Afghans must already be in the US and pass a background check to qualify for the programme, which is intended to help thousands who were evacuated to the US under a short-term status known as humanitarian parole as their country fell to the Taliban.
More than 76,000 Afghans were admitted to the US following the US withdrawal in August.
Homeland Security has said that about 40 percent will qualify for a special immigrant visa, a lengthy and complex process that ultimately provides permanent legal residency and a path to citizenship.
In the meantime, Afghanistan has spiralled into a deep economic crisis under Taliban rule, and millions of them are at risk of starvation.
Refugee advocates have been urging the Biden administration to designate Afghanistan for temporary protected status to prevent Afghans from becoming stranded without legal residency status when their two years of humanitarian parole expires.
“We welcome this designation as an important affirmation that Afghans already in the United States cannot return safely to their homeland,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
The refugee advocates also have pressed Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would grant the Afghans permanent residency and enable them to apply for US citizenship, as was done for refugees in the past, including for people from Cuba, Vietnam, and Iraq.
The US has granted temporary protected status to people from about a dozen countries, most recently Ukraine.
Repeated extensions of the 18-month status have left tens of thousands of people in a kind of immigration limbo for years.