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Helping Our Afghan and

Iraqi Colleagues

BY LARRY COHEN, RETIREE VICE PRESIDENT

Recently, several Provin-

cial Reconstruction Team

interpreters and staff with

whom I served in Afghanistan

contacted me for letters of

support. They need these

recommendations to apply

for Special Immigrant Visas,

an employment-based pro-

gram for Afghans and Iraqis

under the Immigration and

Nationality Act.

You may recall that last

year the departments of

State and Homeland Security

caught flak for extraordinarily

protracted SIV processing.

Critics accused the depart-

ments of making the pro-

gram overly complicated and

agonizingly slow. Whether

visa procedures have

improved, I cannot say. State

says they have.

Due to multiple layers of

scrutiny, SIV applicants will

likely continue to find that

meeting program require-

ments, which include secur-

ing reference letters from a

long chain of former military

and civilian supervisors, is a

tall hurdle.

My own letters of support,

like those of other Ameri-

cans who worked alongside

Afghans in the field, may only

fill part of the gap. Because

American and international

supervisors, many of whom

are retired, are scattered

to the winds, our Afghan

and Iraqi colleagues may

need assistance tracking us

down. Facebook is one tool

they use. Word of mouth is

another.

If you served with Afghans

or Iraqis eligible for SIVs and

can commend their perfor-

mance, consider reaching out

to them. At a minimum, keep

an ear open, especially with

regard to former colleagues

who may be active on social

media.

For more information

on the SIV program, see

the January Congressional

Research Service report on

the Iraqi and Afghan SIV

Programs: https://fas.org/ sgp/crs/homesec/R43725. pdf. n

AFSA NEWS

82

APRIL 2015

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

If you served with Afghans or Iraqis

eligible for SIVs and can commend their

performance, consider reaching out to

them. At a minimum, keep an ear open,

especially with regard to former colleagues

who may be active on social media.