SIVs and the Tangled Road to America: “He had to leave ma’am”

by NOLB Staff

Asif’s Story


Asif started his application for a SIV while still in Afghanistan in 2008.
As the years passed, and because of his continuous work for the U.S., Asif was hunted by the Taliban. To save his life, Asif had to leave Afghanistan as a refugee in 2011, before his U.S. visa was approved.

Asif lived in Frankfurt, Germany – a country that granted him temporary refugee status until July 2017, when the U.S. government approved Asif’s Special Immigrant Visa to enter the United States. But things took a turn for the worse.

Asif left Frankfurt for San Francisco. He could finally get to the country whom he fought for, and whose soldiers he served with shoulder-to-shoulder. However, as he went to board his connecting flight in Iceland, US Customs and Border Patrol refused to let him board, stating that his visa, issued by the United States Government, was not valid. Asif was unable to come to America, unable to stay in Afghanistan, granted only a temporary status in Germany, and in an airport in Iceland with no one to help.

NOLB Steps in To Help
A decision by NOLB to assist in a Special Immigrant Visa case is not made lightly. Two American soldiers, Bryan (still active military) and Peter (retired military), stepped up to the plate and were willing to go to bat for Asif.

NOLB’s Ellen Smith called on NOLB volunteers who found friends in Iceland to offer legal advice and assistance. After several nights spent in Reykjavík, Asif went back to the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany. Upon his arrival, his hard-fought-for Special Immigrant Visa was confiscated and Asif was stuck between two places with no certainty about his future.

NOLB’s Rochester chapter began contacting area members of Congress and with Ellen’s direction, Brian and Peter reached out to their members of Congress as well. Representative Louise Slaughter’s office and Sen. Kristin Gillibrand’s office were in constant communication with Ellen on the case over nearly two months.

After months and countless phone calls and emails, on January 19, 2018, Asif was reissued a U.S. SIV and could finally come to America. His arrival was possible only because of the generous contributions and commitment of American soldiers, NOLB staff and volunteers, and several congressional offices.

Asif’s story is not that rare. No One Left Behind gets hundreds of calls and messages each week from interpreters and support personnel trapped in Iraq and Afghanistan and in need of visa assistance.

We can do it. You can help.


About the Author


NOLB Staff


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