The Biden administration is planning to waive immigration-related fees for up to 70,000 Afghan evacuees as they are resettled in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security said Monday.
The resettlement challenge has dogged the administration since the frenzied evacuation from Afghanistan in August: resettling tens of thousands of people – many of whom worked with or on behalf of the US – within only weeks or months.
The administration will now exempt Afghan evacuees – many of whom arrived in the United States with little to nothing – from paying costly application fees to get authorization to work or apply for lawful permanent residence.
The filing fee for work permit applications – which Afghans need to legally work in the US – is $410 and fees for obtaining lawful permanent residence can be up to $1,225.
“By providing these evacuees with access to streamlined processing and fee exemptions, we will open doors of opportunity for our Afghan allies and help them begin to rebuild their lives in communities across our country more quickly,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
“Today’s announcement provides some much needed financial relief to our newest Afghan neighbors,” tweeted Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “Most of the families we’re serving have no nest egg to draw from, and every expense is a source of stress and anxiety.”
Afghans who were paroled into the US on or after July 30 are eligible for the fee exemptions, according to DHS.
Last month, a group of Democratic senators urged DHS and US Citizenship and Immigration Services to waive fees for Afghans applying for humanitarian parole to come to the US, arguing the “burden of application fees is weighing heavily on communities here in the United States.”
According to DHS, there are approximately 51,000 people at eight Department of Defense sites in the US and roughly 2,500 at sites in Europe and the Middle East.
A total of 68,000 Afghans have come to the US since August 17 – shortly before the US military withdrawal from their country at the end of that month. More than 14,000 of them have been resettled in the US, per DHS.
This story has been updated with reaction Monday.