Law Would Give Afghan Scholars Special Visa to US

A congressman from California has introduced legislation that would give Afghan Fulbright scholars special immigrant visas.  

The legislation would automatically issue a special immigrant visa to any Afghan who lived in the United States as a Fulbright scholar and to their immediate family members to help them “escape persecution by the Taliban and relocate safely to the United States,” according to a statement from the office of U.S. Representative John Garamendi, a Democrat.

“Fulbright Scholarships are one of the most vital U.S. cultural exchange programs that help to improve intercultural relations, diplomacy, and coordination between the United States and other countries,” Garamendi’s statement read.

“This is the right thing to do for our Afghan allies who stood with the United States against the Taliban and the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks.” 

The proposed legislation is called the Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan Fulbright Scholars Act of 2021, or House Resolution 5482.

It would issue a special immigrant visa to any citizen or national of Afghanistan, and their legal spouse or children, selected on or after October 7, 2001, for the following State Department-sponsored educational and cultural exchange programs: 

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs, including the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Grant Program, the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program.

International Visitor Leadership Program. 

Any other similar educational or cultural exchange program administered by the State Department involving travel to the United States and spending significant time living, working or studying therein. 

Last month, the Institute of International Education (IIE) announced plans to award scholarships to 10 former American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) students so they could “safely reconnect to their studies at a college campus abroad.” AUAF was shut down by the Taliban-led government after the U.S. withdrew forces in mid-August.

IIE also announced other programs Afghan students could explore for financial assistance, including the Scholar Rescue Fund, which funds fellowships for “threatened and displaced” students at partnering colleges and universities around the globe. Eighteen emergency scholarships have been awarded, and future scholars are being identified. 

Other programs available to help Afghan scholars and refugees are as follows:  

The Emergency Student Fund (ESF), which provides grants to international students enrolled at colleges and universities in the U.S. “when natural disasters, war or other crises in their home countries threaten their education,” according to IIE. Since September 20, the ESF has funded 80 Afghan students on U.S. campuses who were experiencing financial difficulties.  

The Platform for Education in Emergencies Response, an online clearinghouse that connects refugees and displaced students with scholarships and online learning. Students from Afghanistan are eligible. 

The Artist Protection Fund (APF), which will award fellowships to two threatened Afghan artists from any field of practice and place them “at host institutions in safe countries where they can continue their work and plan for their futures.”  

The Odyssey Scholarship, which was awarded to 10 Afghan students to allow them to study “in the safety of a college campus abroad.” It enables “motivated and qualified refugees or displaced persons to pursue fully funded undergraduate or graduate programs throughout the world.”

Columbia University in New York offers full scholarships every year for refugees and other displaced students. The Columbia University Scholarship for Displaced Students (CUSDS) was launched in December 2019 and has committed up to $6 million in scholarship money for up to 30 students so far.

To be eligible for the CUSDS, applicants must apply to and be accepted by one of the degree programs listed on the website. Acceptance requirements and application deadlines differ depending on the school and degree program. 

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