The Evacuation of Afghanistan: How Lawyers Can Help

By Jacqueline Kirkpatrick

November 9, 2021

The Evacuation of Afghanistan: How Lawyers Can Help


By Jacqueline Kirkpatrick

Jan Brown, a New York City attorney, told more than 200 lawyers attending a New York State Bar Association CLE on the legal response to Afghanistan that the success of the program depended on everyone volunteering.

There are 20,000 people evacuated to the United States and 40,000 taken to U.S. bases in the Middle East and Europe, said Elizabeth Rieser-Murphy, a staff attorney for the The Legal Aid Society. Most will need legal help to stay in the United States and access benefits or to get to the United States in the first place.

There were also people who were authorized to leave but couldn’t get to the airport or through the checkpoints at the airports due to the chaos. Families were split apart, possessions were abandoned, and many will be left to endure years of trauma due to the attacks on the airport during evacuation, Rieser-Murphy said.

Aiding People in the U.S. and Those Left Behind

All who were evacuated to the United States were granted parole rather than designated refugees. This form of humanitarian parole is used to bring those otherwise not admissible into the states for a temporary period.

But the process to  be allowed to stay in the U.S. through humanitarian parole or come to the country in the first place is lengthy and can take many months for approval. It requires forms, evidence, photos, fees and even a “bright colored paper on top – Afghan expedite request.”  This complicated process requires the services of attorneys willing to help and think outside the visa box.

Daniel Parisi, counsel to TL Brill Parisi in London, presented a wide array of visa options for individuals seeking sponsorship. He explained the H-1B option and L-1, and while “there is a lot of competition to get these visas (there is a set numerical amount offered each year), they are a good option for those who are skilled or have degrees.”

Persons with Extraordinary Ability, Students, Scholars

There are also categories that offer flexibility for temporary worker classification. For example, O-1, P-1, P-2, and P-3 visas should be considered for those with “extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, business, athletics and motion picture or TV.” These non-immigrant visa options that can also be considered for those who work with and  support  O-1 level personnel, qualifying them as O-2 candidates (for example stage crews, hair and make-up artists, chefs).

Lenni A. Benson, distinguished professor of Immigration and Human Rights Law at New York Law School, also brought up media and journalism visas for those who work for prominent media outlets. These visas are typically faster to apply and process.

“For example,”  Benson said, “If you are a prominent YouTuber, Instagrammer, or someone who writes a blog, or podcasts, this can apply to you.” These creative-based visas are interesting as there are many ways to interpret, use, and apply them to those who seek humanitarian parole.

In addition, students and scholars can apply for J-1, F-1, and M-1 visas. “The State Department has always prioritized F, M, and J applications, even at the height of the COVID pandemic when they weren’t issuing any visas, they were prioritizing F, M, and J.” This is great news for someone wanting to study here and return home or study and remain here.

This CLE didn’t just focus on various visa options during and after the evacuation but also on benefits available to the Afghan parolees. This included state-funded programs, federal options, as well as paths to permanent resident status. These opportunities may be difficult for a client to understand and therefore the role of counsel is vital to the process.

For pro bono opportunities, please email [email protected]

To volunteer, please use this link provided to submit information on your skills, and your experience, and your geographic preferences:

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