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U.S. Congress backs more visas for Afghans who worked with troops

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate passed legislation on Friday authorizing 1,000 more visas for Afghan civilians who worked with American troops and diplomats - often risking their lives - sending the measure to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The bill, passed unanimously, expands the 2009 Special Immigrant Visa program to 4,000 from 3,000 visas. The House of Representatives passed the measure, also unanimously, on Wednesday.

The measure is intended to assist Afghans who worked for Americans, mostly as interpreters and guides, during the 13-year-long war and to ease the difficult process of getting visas to come to the United States.

Many of the Afghans have had to go into hiding while waiting for visas because the Taliban views them as traitors to their homeland because they worked for the United States.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Ken Wills)

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