A senior administration official said Monday that tens of thousands of Afghans who applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) are still being processed nearly a year after the botched US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and that the process will now be entirely overseen by the State Department.

According to the official, there were 74,274 principal applicants in the pipeline for the SIV, a visa intended for those who worked for the US government during its two-decade involvement in the Afghan war.

This figure includes those who have not yet passed the chief of mission (COM) stage of the application, which is critical in determining whether or not the visa is approved. According to a senior administration official, 40-50 percent of those in the pre-COM stage are turned down “for either not having the right documentation or not being eligible for various reasons.” “There are approximately 10,000 principal applicants who have chief of mission approval and are essentially getting ready to get their documents in order to be relocated,” the official said during a conference call with reporters. This figure excludes approximately 40,000-50,000 family members.

For years leading up to the withdrawal of US forces, the SIV program for Afghan nationals was plagued by management issues and low annual caps. It’s a time-consuming and meticulous process that can take years to complete.

The official stated that SIV processing is moving faster than before, citing increased State Department resources to handle the processing.

Senior administration officials also announced that most new applicants will no longer be required to complete one of two forms, a change in procedure that they claim will “shave about a month off the adjudication time.” The removal of this form means that all processing will be handled by the State Department rather than USCIS. It will, however, be a very rigorous process.

During the US withdrawal from the country last year, the Biden administration came under fire for its handling of SIVs who had difficulty leaving the country quickly due to the chaos of the Taliban takeover. Late last year, Secretary of State Antony Blinken launched a 90-day review of the State Department’s role in the Afghanistan withdrawal. Although the report was completed, none of its findings were made public.

“We don’t have an update at the moment,” a State Department spokesperson told CNN. “However, as we’ve stated, we will be as transparent as possible with the final report, consistent with classification and other considerations.”

In a statement issued Monday, Blinken and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the change “will simplify and streamline the application process for Afghan applicants.”

“New Afghan SIV Program applicants will only need to file one form, a revised form DS-157, as their SIV petition beginning this week.” “New applicants will no longer be required to file the Form I-360, Petition for Special Immigrant Status, with the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS),” they said. “This new streamlined process, which is part of our ongoing efforts to make the program more efficient,” says the program’s director, “will help to eliminate barriers for applicants and shorten application times.”

“This change does not reduce or eliminate any of the rigorous security vetting processes required before the benefit is granted,” they added, calling it “one of many steps we have taken to improve the SIV process while protecting national security.”

“Since the start of the Administration, we have poured resources into this critical program and reviewed every stage of the statutorily mandated application process to streamline wherever possible,” Blinken and Mayorkas said.