All Afghan nationals have departed the safe haven facility at the National Conference Center (NCC) in Leesburg, Virginia, to join communities across the United States. Our commitment to our Afghan allies is enduring and, as part of the U.S. government’s efforts to continue welcoming our Afghan allies, we are adopting a new model whereby Afghan nationals arriving will travel directly to their new communities without a safe haven stop-over in the United States.
Since its establishment on March 1, 2022, more than 4,500 Afghan nationals were temporarily housed at the NCC before joining new communities across the nation. To date, approximately 88,500 Afghan nationals have arrived in the U.S. as part of Operation Allies Welcome (OAW). OAW is the coordinated effort across the federal government to support and resettle vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked on behalf of the United States.
While at the NCC safe haven, Afghan nationals applied for work authorization, were matched with their new U.S. communities, participated in cultural orientation classes, learned about the U.S. legal and immigration systems, and attended English language classes. Numerous federal agencies and their NGO partners contributed to this effort, assisting Afghan nationals through the process and preparing them to resettle in communities around the country.
The Department of Homeland Security and other federal partners have been pivoting towards welcoming Afghan nationals through programs that have long-term durable status, such as the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program and the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, so that Afghan nationals who resettle in the United States will arrive with an immigration status that provides a path to long-term, permanent residence rather than parole which is temporary. The U.S. government also remains committed to supporting and continues to develop processes for family reunification for Afghans.
“Starting in August 2021, at the President’s direction, the Department of Homeland Security has served as the lead federal agency coordinating Operation Allies Welcome, a whole-of-society effort to help vulnerable Afghans resettle. This effort has rallied support from numerous agencies across the federal government, state and local governments, resettlement agencies, veterans, faith-based organizations, and volunteers from local communities across the United States. We are deeply grateful to all who have been involved for their dedication to the mission. It has been a true privilege to serve alongside each of them,” said John Lafferty, Senior Response Official for Operation Allies Welcome. “While operations at the NCC have come to an end, the work continues. We remain fully committed to continuing the work of welcoming and resettling Afghan nationals.”
“I commend the service members, Department of Defense civilian personnel and the entire team at the NCC for their outstanding work in supporting the U.S. government’s resettlement of Afghan arrivals,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Integration and Defense Support of Civil Authorities, Heather King. “From the beginning of the relocation operations in July 2021 for Operation Allies Refuge, we resolved to provide the necessary humanitarian DoD support while our interagency partners worked to resettle our new neighbors. I am proud of the contributions of all who supported this important effort.”
“In the past year, we have watched the country come together to support the historic resettlement of our Afghan Allies. It has been truly inspiring to witness the collaboration, ingenuity, and sheer grit of our federal, state, and non-profit partners, as well as the communities and individual Americans across the country who so generously and freely gave their time, energy, and resources to welcome their new Afghan neighbors. We will always carry with us the stories and hopes of the more than 83,000 Afghans we have resettled over the past year with support from our resettlement partners. As we close the National Conference Center as a safe haven for Operation Allies Welcome, we will sustain our enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan with the same passion, care, and solidarity that guided the State Department and our partners over the past year,” said Julieta Valls Noyes, Assistant Secretary for the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
Prior to entering the United States, Afghan nationals must undergo a rigorous, multi-layered screening and vetting process that includes biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and State; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the National Counterterrorism Center; and other Intelligence Community partners. Afghan nationals also received age-appropriate vaccinations prior to joining communities across the United States.
For Afghan nationals in the United States, there are multiple pathways to lawful permanent status for themselves and certain family members. To facilitate a more permanent pathway for those eligible, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is prioritizing Afghan asylum cases as required by Congress, as well as promptly adjudicating special immigrant-, family-, and employment-based immigrant petitions and employment authorization documents.
Those who are interested in supporting the resettlement of vulnerable Afghans can go to www.welcome.us to learn more about how to get involved. Welcome.US is a national non-profit initiative to welcome and support Afghan nationals as they rebuild their lives in communities across America.