For 13 years, thousands of Afghans have worked alongside our troops and our diplomats, often at great personal risk and many have even lost their lives. When I was in the Senate, I was proud to support the creation of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to keep faith with so many Afghans and Iraqis who stood by the United States. I came into the State Department determined to keep our promises to these brave men and women. That is why I welcome today’s approval of bipartisan legislation in the Senate authorizing 1,000 additional visas for the Afghan SIV program, which follows passage of this legislation in the House on Wednesday. Congress has stood by us in making sure that the United States remains committed to helping those who helped us.
Over the past year, the State Department and our colleagues at other agencies have streamlined the SIV application process and reduced backlogs. As a result of these efforts, well before the end of fiscal year 2014, we have nearly reached our statutory cap of 3,000 visas for Afghans who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government. Passage of this legislation enables us to continue visa issuances for these deserving individuals who faithfully served with us.
I want to particularly thank my former Senate colleagues, Senators Jeanne Shaheen and John McCain, as well as their counterparts in the House, Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Adam Kinzinger, for their leadership on this issue. We look forward to further cooperation with Congress as we seek authorization to continue this program in fiscal year 2015. More than 11,000 Afghans and their family members have benefited from SIV programs, and we are eager to welcome many more.