Seven months after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, more than 76,000 Afghans airlifted out of the country are settling into new homes in communities across the United States. Yet a significant obstacle affects their integration: The vast majority have an uncertain immigration status called “parole,” which grants the right to live and work in the United States but provides no direct path to permanent residence or U.S. citizenship. Permanent residence gives immigrants the assurance to invest in their lives and careers and to find ways to contribute to their new country.

Under normal circumstances, the United States confers refugee status on people abroad deemed in need of protection. This designation brings with it eligibility to apply for permanent residence (a “green card”) within one year of arrival and the ability to apply for U.S. citizenship four years after that.  However, refugee status is typically conferred through overseas processing, a lengthy procedure that could not be activated under the crisis conditions of the Afghan exodus. As a result, about 72,500 Afghans were admitted through parole, which leaves them in indeterminate status. On March 16, the Biden administration announced it will grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Afghans in the United States. This grant will help Afghans with temporary visas that are set to expire or have expired. But TPS, like parole, does not offer a certain future.

There is a solution, though, one rooted in historical precedent and U.S. national interests: Congress could provide evacuated Afghans a straightforward path to permanent residence by passing an adjustment act for this population.

The Homeland Security Secretary has the authority to use parole to allow entry of foreign nationals who lack a visa or other claim to U.S. status if there is an urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit.

Some Afghans now in the United States were already in the process of applying for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) when evacuated, based on their work for one year or more for the U.S. government or allied forces since 2001. And a small number may have relatives who can sponsor them for a green card. But the majority do not have a direct path to a durable legal status.

Read the full article about Afghan evacuees by Julia Gelatt and Doris Meissner at Migration Policy Institute.