January 13, 2015
For many years, U.S. military contractors and their employees who provide goods and/or services in Afghanistan through a contract with the U.S. armed forces have been exempt from many aspects of Afghan law including immigration regulations. At the end of 2014, however, the Afghan Parliament approved a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States aimed at “strengthen[ing] [the] long-term strategic cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including: … strengthening state institutions; supporting Afghanistan’s long-term economic and social development.”
Among the many areas of Afghan law covered by the BSA are provisions to bring U.S. defense contractors and their employees within the Afghan immigration laws and regulations. While this does mean more stringent immigration protocols and requirements for these companies and personnel, it is strongly believed that those affected by the changes will be granted expedited processing times and reduced requirements.
Thus, beginning on January 1, 2015, the following provisions came into force,
• Contractor employees will be required to present a valid passport and Afghan visa upon entry into and exit from the country. These visas will be issued valid for at least one (1) year and allow for multiple entries into the country.
• Contractor employees may, in certain circumstances, be required to obtain a work permit to carry out their work activities in Afghanistan. Please note, however, that the exact circumstances where a work permit will be required for this population has yet to be announced by the Afghan authorities.
• Contractor companies will now be subject to certain business registration requirements. Currently, the BSA only requires contractor companies to obtain a three-year business registration license and payment of a “reasonable” service charge to the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency. Contractors remain exempt from all other registrations and licensures; however, this may change with future revisions of the Afghan immigration regulations.
It is important to note that the above new requirements are for non-military employees of contractor companies: members of the U.S. armed forces and its civilian component (U.S. Department of Defense) remain exempt from the immigration provisions of the BSA as its currently written and therefore will not require a valid passport or visa to enter and exit Afghanistan.
While this BSA provides the initial foundation for establishing visa and work permit regulations for U.S. contractors and their employees, there remain some points of uncertainty with the new law:
• While it is widely believed that U.S. contractors already in Afghanistan as of January 1, 2015, will be allowed to remain in-country and will be given a grace period to obtain the correct documentation, there have been no formal confirmations of this by the Afghan authorities.
• Details regarding the one-time “reasonable” charge to the Afghanistan Investment and Support Agency have yet to be forthcoming.
• As mentioned above, the BSA does not indicate whether this population of foreign employees will be required to obtain work permits to carry out their contractual agreements with the U.S. military. The Afghan authorities have yet to issue a formal statement on the matter as well.
• Finally, these new requirements come at a time of significant change to the overall Afghan immigration system. It is widely anticipated that the Afghan authorities will publish further and more detailed immigration regulations regarding U.S. military contractors, their employees, and other foreign worker populations within this year.
Pro-Link GLOBAL continues to monitor the situation closely and will provide updates as more information is made available.