The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday approved 4,000 more visas for Afghans who worked for U.S. forces as interpreters or support staff.
The committee included the additional Special Immigration Visas (SIV) in a $650 billion defense authorization bill.
The SIV Program allows Afghans who worked for the U.S. government for a period of about two years, often risking their lives, to move to the United States with their family members after a rigorous vetting process.
Bipartisan pushes by U.S. lawamkers this year for more SIV visas have come against the backdrop of efforts by the Trump administration to clamp down on immigration from predominantly Muslim countries.
In March, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said it had stopped scheduling interviews for SIV applicants because it had nearly run out of visas. But Congress included 2,500 more in a spending bill in April to preserve the program.
“Our nation owes a great debt to the civilians who have provided essential assistance to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and I am very pleased that this legislation authorizes the necessary visas for these brave men and women,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who pushed for the visas, along with the committee’s chairman, John McCain.