WASHINGTON—The U.S. will expand eligibility for Afghans seeking admission to the U.S. as refugees, the State Department said, citing increasing levels of Taliban violence amid the U.S. troop withdrawal.
Afghans who worked as employees of U.S. government contractors, for U.S.-funded programs, or U.S.-based media or nongovernmental organizations will be eligible for a priority designation to apply to a U.S. refugee program for the opportunity to permanently resettle in the U.S., the State Department said Monday. Their spouses and children will also be eligible.
“The U.S. objective remains a peaceful, secure Afghanistan,” the department said.
The new designation will enable thousands of Afghans who previously didn’t meet the criteria for an existing refugee program to apply for refugee status. The existing Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program established in 2009 only considered Afghans that worked directly for the U.S. government.
The decision comes as the Biden administration has come under significant bipartisan pressure to do more to help Afghans that helped the U.S. during the war.