New rule on U.S. visa eligibility could prevent Afghan translators from refuge

In September 2015, the U.S. Congress voted and passed a rule change that would require interpreters seeking U.S. visas to give two years of service – increased from the original one year. For Afghan translators who have interpreted for the U.S. military and are applying for visas, this rule change could mean that they are no longer eligible to receive an American visa.

The rule change works retroactively, even for interpreters who submitted their visa application months – even years before the rule was passed. Advocates estimate that this retroactive change will affect over 3,000 Afghan veteran interpreters under threat from the Taliban.

Many of these interpreters volunteered with the U.S. military on dangerous missions, often unarmed and without any body armor. For these interpreters, a U.S. visa would protect them and their families. One veteran interpreter and visa applicant, who worked with the U.S. military for over seven years, received multiple letters of recommendation and certificates from military officials, dating his length of service for the U.S. military and praising his bravery and dedication.

Unfortunately, in 2014 the U.S. embassy in Kabul rejected his visa, citing “insufficient length of employment” and claiming that he failed to satisfy the retroactively applied two-year requirement.

Advocates for veteran interpreters say that the new rule change furthers complications in an already-inefficient system.

Attorneys are now working hard on these cases to give qualified and eligible Afghan interpreters the opportunity to seek refuge in the United States.

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