Afghan citizens living in the US with expired visas will be given temporary protected status for 18 months due to precarious conditions in their country, the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday.
“This TPS designation will help to protect Afghan nationals who have already been living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
DHS said Afghans face reduced security and deteriorated living conditions since the Taliban seized power last August.
It pointed to “a collapsing public sector, a worsening economic crisis, drought, food and water insecurity, lack of access to health care, internal displacement, human rights abuses and repression by the Taliban, destruction of infrastructure, and increasing criminality.”
It also cited continuing attacks on civilians by Islamic State-Khorasan, the Afghan arm of the extremist Islamic State group.
DHS did not say how many people the TPS order applied to.
Tens of thousands of Afghans fled their country last year as US and coalition forces abandoned the country and the Taliban took control after 20 years of fighting.
Many arrived in the United States seeking resettlement under a special immigrant visa program, but some face delays in certifying their status.
Other Afghans who could qualify for TPS may have been in the United States already but have not secured permanent status or have been unable to return home.
Temporary protection will apply only to Afghans inside the US on or before March 15, 2022.
TPS is often extended to visiting nationals of other countries in the United States when political upheavals or natural disasters strike their country and returning is difficult.