Afghans entering the United States through Mexico may have questions about the asylum process, work authorization, resettlement benefits, and other immigration-related issues.
Question: I have heard that there is a new process for people who want to enter the U.S. from Mexico to ask for asylum. What is it?
Answer: Under current US border policy, people who wish to ask for asylum in the U.S. are being directed to use the CBPOne cell phone app to schedule an appointment to appear at a U.S. port-of-entry. Upon entering, they will be placed into expedited removal proceedings and will need to demonstrate a “credible fear” of harm upon return to their country of nationality in order to be permitted to apply for asylum in the U.S. Recent changes in U.S. border policies will make it more difficult for people who entered the US after May 11, 2023, without going through inspection at a port-of-entry to qualify for asylum if they transited through other countries and did not ask for asylum in those locations before coming to the U.S.
Question: Are Afghans processed differently from other nationalities at the US-Mexican Border?
Answer: Afghans arriving to the US through the southern border with Mexico do not receive any preferred or special treatment but instead will be processed the same as any other non-US citizen seeking to enter the US without a valid visa.
Question: Is the asylum process the same for Afghans who enter the US from Mexico as it was for Afghans who were brought to the US through Operation Allies Welcome (OAW)?
Answer: Like all asylum seekers, Afghans who enter the US through the southern border must apply for asylum within one year of entry. An exception to the one-year filing deadline may be available for someone with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or parole. Unlike those who were paroled into the US under Operation Allies Welcome (OAW), Afghans who come through the southern border are not entitled to expedited processing of their asylum applications. Currently, the normal processing time for non-OAW asylum applications is several years.
Question: What about Temporary Protected Status? Are Afghans who enter the US from Mexico eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status?
Answer: Temporary Protected Status (TPS) allows nationals of certain countries experiencing severe disruption due to civil unrest or natural disasters to remain in the US and to apply for work authorization for a temporary period of time. TPS for Afghanistan was designated by the US government in May 2022 for 18 months, and was extended and re-designated in September 2023 for another 18-month period. Under the current designation, Afghans who were continuously resident in the US since Sept. 20, 2023, and who were continuously physically present in the US since Nov. 21, 2023, may apply for TPS. This includes individuals who are in removal proceedings in immigration court. Afghans who entered the US from Mexico and who are in removal proceedings are strongly encouraged to consult with an immigration attorney or DOJ-accredited representative about their legal situation and options before applying for TPS.
Question: Are Afghans who enter the US from Mexico allowed to work in the US?
Answer: Afghans who receive parole under Section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) may be eligible to apply for Employment Authorization. However, if they only receive a short period of parole, there may be no practical way of receiving work authorization before their parole expires. As a result, many, if not most, individuals who enter through the southern border will only be able to apply for work authorization after they have filed an asylum application and that application has been pending for 150 days, or if they apply for and receive TPS.
Question: Can Afghans who enter the US from Mexico receive resettlement assistance?
Answer: Afghans who receive parole under Section 212(d)(5) of the INA by September 30, 2023, and their spouse and children who receive parole after that date, are eligible for resettlement benefits and services through the Office or Refugee Resettlement through the expiration of their parole or through March 31, 2023, whichever date is later. Once a person’s parole has expired, even if they have applied for asylum, they no longer qualify for benefits. However, if granted asylum, or granted SIV-based permanent residence, they will be eligible for benefits and services.
Question: Can Afghans who enter the US from Mexico bring their family members to join them in the US?
Answer: Only those who have been granted asylum, refugee status, Lawful Permanent Residence or US citizenship, or those who have been granted status as victims of human trafficking (T visa) or victims of crime (U visa), may petition to bring family members to the US.
Question: Can Afghans who enter the US from Mexico receive free legal help with their immigration case?
Answer: Afghans who have received parole may qualify for free assistance with their legal immigration cases, but due to high demand for immigration legal assistance, there is currently limited availability of low-cost or no-cost legal services for those in immigration proceedings and those seeking asylum.
Those who need immigration legal advice can contact Welcome Legal Alliance at https://welcome.us/legalalliance/resources-for-afghans or complete the Human Rights First PALAintake form or consult a national directory of non-profit legal service providers at https://www.immi.org/en/Info/get-legal-help. AILA also has a list of low cost attorneys assisting Afghans.
It is important to avoid being taken advantage of by immigration scammers or “notarios” so be sure only to accept assistance from a licensed attorney or DOJ-accredited representative.