December 4, 2021

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USCIS to waive application fees for Afghan refugees

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“Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of nine national refugee resettlement agencies, welcomed Monday’s announcement, saying many of the Afghan families her group serves face financial insecurity and are eager to find jobs,” CBS News reported. Work permit and associated fees top nearly $500; green card paperwork more than doubles that amount.

“Today’s announcement provides some much-needed financial relief to our newest Afghan neighbors,” O’Mara Vignarajah wrote in a Twitter thread. “Most of the families we’re serving have no nest egg to draw from, and every expense is a source of stress and anxiety. Removing this financial burden will go a long way in leveling the playing field and setting up these newcomers for success. We are especially grateful to the Biden administration for streamlined processing of work authorization.”

DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that by waiving USCIS fees, “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. These actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to Afghan nationals who provided valuable assistance to the United States over the past two decades as well as other Afghans at risk.”

CBS News reports that the vast majority of Afghan evacuees, 50,000, continue to be housed at several military bases across the U.S. 14,000 have left these bases for resettlement throughout the country. Among those resettled have been four children orphaned when their mother was killed amid the withdrawal, CBS Evening News said. They are now in Texas with a cousin. Another 2,000 Afghan evacuees remain at bases in the Middle East and Europe, where U.S. officials have been conducting security screenings and background checks, according to DHS statistics,” CBS News continued.

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In a move attempting to lessen the burdens facing agencies working to resettle families within the U.S., the administration late last month announced an initiative that would allow small groups of vetted individuals to form “sponsor circles,” which will be responsible for securing housing and financial support for Afghans. The Sponsor Circle Program mirrors efforts in Canada. That move was similarly applauded by advocates, including O’Mara Vignarajah.

Other recent efforts have also included a campaign urging Americans to donate spare airline miles to refugees leaving U.S. bases. In a release received by Daily Kos, Miles4Migrants and partner Welcome.US said they’re seeking to secure 450 million miles, “needed to provide every evacuee with a flight to their new home.” Thousands of flights have already been secured.

When it comes to applying for necessary documents to help secure their new lives here, O’Mara Vignarajah said in her thread that LIRS clients “have expressed their frustration with the bureaucratic inefficiency that has prevented them from accessing the dignity of a job and the financial security that comes with it. This policy decision is an economic win-win; we can get these families on the road to self-sufficiency, and we can unleash their potential for employers desperate for talented workers amid a labor shortage.”



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