The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) provides free legal help to some refugees and displaced people.
- IRAP helps some people find services and prepare refugee and visa applications.
- IRAP is not part of any government, IOM, or UNHCR.
- IRAP cannot grant refugee status or visas or speed up cases.
- IRAP cannot provide financial help, find or pay for housing, or find jobs.
- All of IRAP’s help is free. No one affiliated with IRAP has the right to ask you for money or any other service.
IRAP decides to help people based on their need and eligibility for immigration status. IRAP does not decide to help people based on any other social or political or religious criteria.
This website provides general information about legal processes available to some refugees. It is not meant as legal advice for individual applications.
This information was revised in January 2023. Requirements may change. Always check for current requirements from the government or agency deciding your request.
The P-1 and P-2 (or Priority 1 and Priority 2 programs for Afghan nationals) allow some Afghans to be considered for refugee resettlement to the United States.
Afghan citizens cannot apply directly for refugee resettlement to the United States. Their U.S.-based family members, friends, or lawyers also cannot refer them. They must be referred by:
- A U.S. government official or the U.S.-affiliated company or
- The U.S.-affiliated company or organization that employed the Afghan citizen in Afghanistan.
P-1 and P-2 are not visa categories and have no relationship to the nonimmigrant P visa categories. Refugee resettlement and P1/P2 resettlement categories are also distinct from the SIV program and humanitarian parole.
How can an Afghan be referred for the P-1 program?
The P-1 program is one way people can be referred for consideration for refugee resettlement. P-1 referrals can be made by U.S. embassies, NGOs, and UNHCR (the UN refugee agency). Individuals cannot directly apply for a P-1 referral.
In general, U.S. embassies make P-1 referrals only rarely. However, since August 2021, some Afghan nationals who are well-known to former Embassy Kabul officials have qualified for Embassy P-1 referrals. An Afghan who knows a U.S. government official personally can ask that person to make a referral. That person must receive approval from a senior government official and follow a designated procedure.
More information on Embassy P-1 referrals for Afghans is available in this State Department guidance.
Certain NGOs can make P-1 referrals, but the U.S. government must first designate them as qualified organizations for this purpose. IRAP is not aware of any NGOs currently making referrals for individuals who are in Afghanistan.
UNHCR is responsible for the majority of P-1 referrals each year. However, UNHCR is only able to refer a very small percentage of the global refugee population for resettlement each year. They can only refer refugees for resettlement, meaning individuals who are outside their countries of origin.
How can an Afghan be referred for the P-2 program?
The U.S. government created the P-2 program for certain U.S.-affiliated Afghan nationals in August 2021. Afghans may be eligible for the P-2 program if they worked in Afghanistan:
- For a U.S. government-funded program or project supported through a U.S. government grant or cooperative agreement.
- Employees of sub-contractors and sub-grantees are not eligible for P-2.
- For a U.S.-based media organization.
- For a U.S.-based non-governmental organization.
Afghans may also be eligible for this program if their work would qualify for an SIV, but they did not work long enough to be eligible for an SIV. This includes work in Afghanistan:
- As employees of U.S. government contractors for less than one year.
- Employees of subcontractors are not eligible for P-2.
- For the U.S. government as locally-employed staff for less than one year.
- As interpreters/translators for the U.S. Government, United States Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or Resolute Support for less than one year.
Individuals cannot apply directly for the P-2 program. A U.S. government official must submit the P-2 referral on your behalf.
For Afghans who worked at U.S.-based media organizations and NGOs, referrals must be made by the senior-most U.S. citizen employee of the organization’s headquarters in the United States. Under current State Department guidance, this program does not require:
- A minimum length of employment on the relevant project, grant, or contract.
- Recommendation letters describing the value of the individual’s service.
- That a specific percentage of the individual’s employment have been connected to U.S. funding.
If you did not work for a U.S.-based media organization or NGO, then you must be referred by a U.S. government official from the U.S. government agency that funded your employer. Your employer or supervisor should contact the U.S. government official or agency that funded your work to ask how to make a referral.
The Department of Defense (DOD) has also an email address the DOD employees may use to make P1 and P2 referrals, email@example.com. The DOD has indicated that the email is for DOD employees only and there is currently no process or email for Afghans to directly request P1 or P2 referrals from the DOD. If you are not in touch with your employer in Afghanistan, you can also contact a U.S. government official who knows about your work and the U.S.-funded contract or grant that employed you.
The State Department published more detailed guidance in English that is available here.
Eligible family members
If you are eligible for the P-2 program, your employer can refer:
- Your spouse
- Your children (of any age, married or unmarried)
The State Department has not explained whether the spouse and children can apply without the eligible employee, including if the eligible employee dies.
How long will this process take?
People who are referred to the P-1 and P-2 programs must also complete extensive processing, including interviews and security checks. No one with a referral is guaranteed to receive approval for resettlement. IRAP’s information about the U.S. refugee resettlement process is here. IRAP expects that this process will take several years.
There is no refugee resettlement processing within Afghanistan, so your case can only be processed if you leave the country. People who leave Afghanistan for this purpose will not receive financial support from the U.S. government or the UN while they wait for a decision.
This information is based on guidance published by U.S. government. IRAP will update this guide as the U.S. government publishes more information and as individuals progress through the process.
Can USRAP processing be completed within Afghanistan?
At the moment, there are no options for U.S. immigration processing from inside Afghanistan. An applicant can start an SIV application or receive a P-1 or P-2 referral from inside Afghanistan, but there is no way to finish these processes from inside Afghanistan.
What happens after an Afghan is referred through the P-1 or P-2 programs?
Processing and interviews will not start until you are able to leave Afghanistan. The U.S. government has not announced where it will do interviews for resettlement for this program. It has said that it will not process applications in Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Syria, or Yemen.
The State Department’s guidance says that after an employer submits information to the U.S. government, and the State Department has reviewed the referral and decided that it is complete and eligible, the State Department will email the applicant from firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. This email from the State Department will explain how to inform the State Department if an applicant leaves Afghanistan.
Please note that the State Department expects employers and referring agencies to serve as the contact for applicants until a referral is complete and accepted. When the State Department accepts a referral, both the employer and the applicant should receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. If you believe that you have been referred through P-1 or P-2 but have not received that email, then you should follow up with your employer or referrer for more information and updates.
Refugee resettlement processing includes at least two interviews, security checks, and a medical exam. The U.S. government estimates that the process could take more than one year. IRAP believes that processing will likely take several years. IRAP’s guide about the refugee resettlement process is here.
Can I apply for P-1 or P-2 and other immigration programs at the same time?
Yes. IRAP has guides on other pathways that may apply to them on our website, iraplegalinfo.org. This website includes information about SIVs, family reunification, and humanitarian parole.
Can I apply to the P-1 or P-2 programs from inside the United States?
People with P-1 and P-2 referrals who were paroled into the United States are not able to complete this process from inside the United States. Those individuals should request legal help for potential avenues to obtain long-term legal status in the United States.