The Data on How Many Afghan Special Immigrant Visas Are Approved Each Year

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the sudden fall of the Afghan government to Taliban forces has renewed public debate about what the U.S. government should do to provide refuge for Afghan nationals who worked for the U.S. and face a heightened risk of violence and persecution.

One option (by no means the only option) is the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which allots visas to Afghans who meet certain criteria. The program has two varieties: (1) SIV-“Worked for U.S.”, which is for Afghan nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government, and (2) SIV-“Translators/Interpreters”, which is for Afghan nationals who worked as translators or interpreters.

Important note: at this point, neither of these programs are likely to be responsive enough to the rapidly unfolding situation on the ground in Afghanistan to be of any use now. It appears that the most timely legal pathways will be parole, asylum, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), or some other option. It is nonetheless useful to look back at the number of SIVs issued over the past nearly decade and a half.

I made three graphs below from data through the end of March 2021 gathered and published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The first shows the number of approved Afghan SIV-“Worked for U.S.” applicants per year. The second shows the number of approved Afghan SIV-“Translator/Interpreter” applicants per year. The third shows the total number of approved SIV applicants and their dependents.

Disclaimer: This is by no means an analysis of the SIV program, nor a recommendation about what should be done for Afghans at this crucial moment, nor legal advice.