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5 Important Questions for Unaccompanied Afghan Minors (UAMs) and Sponsors While Settling in the U.S.

 

farid-ershad-kNDirqnZn8M-unsplash.jpgRemember: It is important for you and your sponsor to speak to an attorney about your specific case and to discuss any possible forms of relief that you may be eligible for.

 

LATEST UPDATES

UPDATE 11/22/2022: There is a new Afghan Family Reunification process (go to section #2 of this page) for Afghan nationals who already have status in the U.S. to bring family members from Afghanistan to join them in the U.S.

UPDATE 8/19/2022: Unaccompanied Afghan minors and sponsors who need to speak to an attorney can locate a low bono (reduced cost) attorney through the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Afghan Referral List. This list will be updated periodically.

UPDATE 5/20/2022: Unaccompanied Afghan Minors (UAMs) and family members are eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  

UPDATE 3/24/2022: Until September 2022, Unaccompanied Afghan Minors (even if over 18) who are not assured and not enrolled in APA as a walk-in, can apply for the Virtual APA (VAPA) program through the Independence Line! To learn more about applying for APA in person and virtually, go to section #3 of this page.  

Reminder: As a UAM, you have until September 2022 to apply for APA/VAPA! 

We will update this page as more information is available.

 

This article will answer five important questions about resettlement and resources in the US for Unaccompanied Afghan Minors and sponsors (click on the question below to go to the answer): 

  1. Why is it important to talk to an attorney about my case/my family's case (get a legal referral)?
  2. What can I do if I still have family members in Afghanistan or another country?
  3. How can I apply for walk-in or virtual Afghan Placement and Assistance (APA/VAPA) benefits, receive financial support, and connect to other resources?
  4. How do I enroll in school if I am living in temporary housing and what are my rights as a student?
  5. How do I get information about the COVID-19 vaccine?

 

1) Why is it important to talk to an attorney about my case/my family's case (get a legal referral)?

Many Afghan evacuees (including unaccompanied children) were granted “humanitarian parole” for two years, which means they can enter and remain in the US legally during that time. However, parole does not provide permanent lawful status. Many parolees, or people who were granted humanitarian parole, including unaccompanied children, will still need to apply for asylum, a Special Immigrant Juvenile visa (SIJs), or another form of relief. Click on your preferred language to learn more information about humanitarian parole in English, Dari or Pashto.

Starting May 20, 2022, unaccompanied Afghan minors and family members are eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This is not a permanent status, but it may give you another option to legally stay in the US for a longer period of time beyond the 2 years allowed through humanitarian parole. To apply for TPS, you must submit Form I-821 within the period between May 20, 2022 and November 20, 2023.  

You should speak with an immigration attorney as soon as possible, because an attorney can help you better understand which forms of relief you may be eligible for, and applying for relief can take a very long time to process. Please note that Unaccompanied Afghan Minors with humanitarian parole are exempt from the 1-year filing deadline for asylum, while their parole is valid. Please see this updated information from US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

 

IMPORTANT: Only an attorney/lawyer or an accredited representative can provide legal advice and help you with your immigration case. A notary is NOT a lawyer. Notaries cannot legally help you with your immigration case. They are not trained or authorized to help you understand how the forms of immigration relief available, or immigration laws in general, may apply to you. If someone tells you they are a notary that can offer you legal help or advice, you should not trust or work with them. 

You can learn more about how to avoid immigration scams in these videos in English and Dari. 

 

2) What can I do if I still have family members in Afghanistan or another country?

The U.S. government started a program to help U.S. citizens and Afghans in the United States reunite with their family members who stayed in Afghanistan. This program:

  • Allows Afghan nationals who already have status in the U.S. (citizens, Lawful Permanent Status, refugees, asylees, and parolees/TPS holders*) to bring family members from Afghanistan to join them in the U.S.,
  • Requires eligible family members to have a valid passport to leave Afghanistan, and
  • Does not currently include reunification of unaccompanied children in the US with parents.

*Parolees who later apply for TPS will need to complete a form (DS-4317). This form is not available yet, so parolees and TPS holders can't apply for reunification until this form is made public. We will keep updating this page as more information becomes available.

You can find more information on the U.S. Department of State's website here: https://www.state.gov/afghanistan-family-reunification/

If you have questions about reunification, contact us!

 

3) How can I apply for walk-in or virtual Afghan Placement and Assistance (APA or VAPA) benefits, get financial support, and connect to other resources?

IMPORTANT: After September 30, 2022, it will not be possible to apply for APA benefits. However, other programs may be available in your area to provide additional support. Please reach out to us to learn more.

The Afghan Placement and Assistance (APA) Program helps Afghan refugees and families with support services like airport transportation, housing, food assistance, clothing, healthcare, school enrollment, limited financial help, and other resources.  

As an unaccompanied child coming from a shelter, if you are unassured (you have not been assigned to a resettlement agency), you have two options to apply for APA:

  1. Walk-in: You can "walk-in" to a resettlement agency and ask to apply for APA in person. Unaccompanied Afghan Minors are now able to walk-in and apply for APA until September 2022. Find your nearest refugee resettlement agency to visit and apply for APA here (if you are looking at this document on your computer, you can press 'control + F' on your keyboard and then type in your city).
  2. Virtual: If you were not at a safe haven or you left a base independently without being assured, and have been unable to apply for APA, you may be eligible for Virtual APA (VAPA). You must first try to to apply in-person at local agencies before you can apply virtually. You can get more information about whether you qualify for VAPA by:
    • Calling the hotline at 1-855-341-5456
    • Emailing TIL@loyalsource.com
      After you call or email them, they will let you know if you are eligible for VAPA and what the next steps are in the process. There is also assistance available in Dari and Pashto.

IMPORTANT: Many agencies are overwhelmed right now because many people are applying for APA services. Because of this, it might take a long time to receive APA services. If you need help while you wait, we have provided some general resources that may help you below: 

    • USA Hello’s Afghan Resource Centerprovides a list of the benefitsand services available to unaccompanied children and families through the APA Program and the Post-Release Services (PRS) Program. Information is provided in English, Dari and Pashto, and covers topics such as immigration, jobs, daily life, American culture, US laws, money, health, and education. They also share many other resources specifically for Afghan parolees. 

    • Settle Inoffers Afghan families helpful videos and resources in Dari and Pashto about resettling in the US, including legal and medical information, culture and life in the US, and more. 

4) How do I enroll in school if I am in temporary housing and what are my rights as a student? 

If you are currently living in temporary housing or a hotel for several months, you still have the right to enroll in school – schools legally cannot deny you enrollment. You can enroll in school immediately without proof of residency, immunization records or other documents. You should have 30 days to collect the necessary documents after enrolling in school. You can find more information about how to enroll in public school in the US, attendance and absences, what you need to bring to school, how to get to school, and more in English, Dari and Pashto. 

It's important for you to know your rights at school in the US. For example, if English is not your first language, you have the right to receive language assistance services and information or announcements from your school in your preferred language. 

As a Muslim student, you have the right to wear a hijab or kufi, pray during the school day, and miss school for holidays. Schools are also required to protect you from bullying. Read more about your rights as a student in English, Dari and Pashto

 

5) How do I get information about the COVID-19 vaccine? 

COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccines are free, no matter your legal status. You also do not need health insurance to get these COVID-19 services.  

The COVID-19 vaccine protects you, your family and your community from getting COVID-19. You can still catch the virus if you are vaccinated, but the vaccine protects you from getting seriously sick. Some other important facts to know about the COVID-19 vaccine: 

  • The vaccines are safe and effective. 
  • The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. 
  • Side effects are normal and mean the vaccine is teaching your body how to fight the virus. 
  • The vaccine is halal.
  • The vaccine does not contain any animal products.
  • The vaccine does not change your DNA. 

Contact us if you need any help or would like more information about COVID-19 testing, treatment or vaccinations. We have shared more resources below: 

  • Find where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine near you: https://www.vaccines.gov/  
     
  • The COVID-19 vaccine is safe for children and youth. This fact sheet that highlights how vaccines keep kids safe, what to expect after kids get vaccinated, that vaccines are free, and which side effects to expect – Dari, Pashto and English.

You can find many more facts and resources about COVID-19 on the National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants (NRC-RIM)’s website in Dari and Pashto. Contact us if you need help finding more COVID-19 information or services.

 

Reach out to us if you have any questions! We created these infographics (below) in Dari, Pashto and English so that you and others can connect with us:

Pashto_NEW_VERSION.jpg

Dari_NEW_VERSION.jpg

You can view and download the English version of this document here

 

This page provides general information and should not be considered legal advice. Please be sure to speak to an attorney about your specific case.

 

Sources:

https://worldrelief.org/content/uploads/2021/09/APA-Program-Overview-External.pdf

https://www.wrapsnet.org/documents/APA%20Affiliate%20Directory%20(Version%201,%209-30-21).pdf

https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/eligibility/downloads/hlth-cov-option-afghan-evac-fact-sheet.pdf

https://bluestarfam.org/woc/afghan-allies/military-and-veteran-connected-resources/mental-health-guide/independence-fund-the-independence-line/ 

 

Photo Credit: Farid Ershad on Unsplash

 

VAPA Resources: