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Increasing Afghan Businesspeople’s Access to U.S. Visas Urged
By J.J. Smith,
SHRM Online Global HR Focus Area
November 2006

Economic opportunities in Afghanistan would increase if the United States made it easier for Afghan businesspeople to obtain visas to enter the United States, a leader in that community told the SHRM Online Global HR Focus Area.

Accelerating economic development is part of the struggle against the Taliban and al-Qaida, said Ajmal Ghani, chairman of the board of the Afghan American Chamber of Commerce. A growing economy in Afghanistan would create jobs and stability, which the United States wants, said Ghani, who on Oct. 31 spoke at the U.S.-Afghan Business Matchmaking Conference in Washington, D.C.
The United States and Afghanistan know that economic development driven by the private sector is the answer to the revitalization of the Afghan economy and the creation of a sustainable middle class, Ghani said. And, while there was a large delegation of businesspeople from Afghanistan attending the conference, they made it into the United States with great difficulties, he added.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, does not issue the nonimmigrant visas needed to enter the United States, Ghani said. The conference attendees—and all other Afghan businesspeople—have to travel to Islamabad, Pakistan, to obtain visas from the U.S. Embassy there, he said. “While we have received cooperation from the U.S. Embassies in Kabul and Islamabad, it is expensive, time-consuming and occasionally not a very pleasant experience for Afghan businesspeople to acquire visas,” he said. If it were easier to obtain visas, the Afghan delegation would have been triple the size it was, he said.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul currently issues only class A and class G diplomatic visas, said State Department official Janelle Hironimus. The State Department recognizes the value and convenience of nonimmigrant-visa-issuing operations in Afghanistan to facilitate nonimmigrant travel to the United States, she said. However, the Kabul embassy’s technical and personal support staff, and the security situation, do not permit expansion of visa services to include all categories of nonimmigrant visas, she said. When the situation changes, the embassy will issue those visas, she added.

While the Afghan business community “understands the security responsibilities of the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, there can be a better way that pays full attention to the nation’s security needs,” Ghani said. Making it easier for Afghan businesspeople to travel to the United States will help increase security; therefore, a visa-issuing consulate is needed in Kabul now if the United States hopes to increase economic development in Afghanistan. “From our experience, we know there are precious few investments to be made in Afghanistan by U.S. companies without capable Afghan partners,” he said.

J.J. Smith is editor/manager of SHRM Online’s Global HR Focus Area.

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