Every year, thousands of people attempt to enter the United States to give a deceased family member a
final visit before their burial or receive care from more advanced medical treatment facilities than their
countries can offer them.
In this explainer, an experienced immigration attorney from the Costas Network Law Center will outline
how you can apply for humanitarian parole. We will detail a few immigration law concepts and cover
every piece of supporting evidence and travel document you need to freely visit your family members
in-country for an emergency situation without a tourist visa.
What Is Humanitarian Parole?
Humanitarian parole refers to a legal mechanism by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that lets refugees temporarily stay and people with a relative who is a lawful permanent resident visit their families. Foreigners can list a broad range of reasons to come to the United States in a humanitarian parole request. However, the USCIS only approves those that provide a public benefit or are otherwise for urgent humanitarian reasons.
Humanitarian Parole Benefits
For most people trying to enter the United States, a humanitarian parole application is usually the last resort before giving up. The government grants them in a discretionary way.
A humanitarian parole applicant is usually an alien ineligible to enter the United States under normal circumstances and now seeks to gain temporary entrance because of an emergency. The USCIS offers limited benefits for humanitarian parole, and they come with extensive strings attached.
Consider a few benefits of the humanitarian parole process:
- Humanitarian parole provides temporary protection for migrants, serving as a lifesaving resource for eligible individuals, often from war-torn countries. It lets them bypass the normal visa issuing procedures that may take months or years to complete.
- It enhances public health and national security by vetting people applying for a visa through rigorous parole programs compared to authorizing their entry without prior screening and background checks.
Who Is Eligible for Humanitarian Parole?
As mentioned above, the USCIS approves humanitarian parole applications on a discretionary basis, which means that even if you meet all the requirements, you still may be ineligible. Most applicants that receive approval:
- Need medical treatment that they can’t get anywhere else.
- Want to pay relatives with grave illnesses a visit
- Wish to attend the funeral of a family member
- Must testify or answer a summons to participate in a domestic court case
Must testify or answer a summons to participate in a domestic court case Individuals and families who qualify for humanitarian parole have legitimate and urgent humanitarian reasons for visiting America or staying in-country for a longer time than their current visa allows.
Proxies can file a humanitarian parole request on your behalf by submitting an Application for Travel Document or Form I-131. We recommend filling it out and applying with the help of an experienced immigration attorney so you can improve your chances of qualifying.
Examples of urgent humanitarian motives for a parole request also include:
- Visiting a relative in-country who is sick, advanced in years, or is otherwise vulnerable and needs looking after
- Providing support or caring for immediate family members who are permanent residents with serious injuries or have a terminal illness
- Organizing the affairs of a recently deceased relative even if you’re not attending their funeral
- Resolving active legal cases by testifying in a lawsuit where a judge or a legal team requires your presence
Same-Sex Couples and Humanitarian Parole
Every year, thousands of same-sex couples contact the USCIS to apply for humanitarian parole. Since same-sex marriage is lawful in America, many couples file temporary immigration requests to marry and then return to their home countries.
Numerous countries worldwide don’t consider same-sex couples related by marriage until they provide legal evidence of marriage within a country where same-sex unions are lawful under the civil code.
Immigration officers also consider the kids of same-sex couples as legally adopted children. So, they grant parole in a way that won’t tear the family apart as a unit, as humanitarian parole can last as long as two years.
Legal Immigration Options that Could Give You an Advantage
Apply for Humanitarian Parole with an Advance Parole Request
If you already live in the United States without a legal immigrant visa, you can file for Advance Parole with supporting documentation. Most people who file a humanitarian parole application are individuals outside the U.S. with no credible path to citizenship under the current state of American immigration law.
Prepare your supporting documentation in advance, as the USCIS will process your humanitarian parole request with the thousands they get from these hopefuls every month.
Apply for Humanitarian Parole with a Parole in Place Request
If you have a family member in the U.S. military, apply for humanitarian parole by filing a Parole in Place request. Even though the USCIS grants approvals on a case-by-case basis, widows, widowers, spouses, daughters, parents, and sons and daughters of military personnel could have better chances.
Your family members in the armed forces don’t have to be on active duty or enlisted in the Ready Reserve. The USCIS also grants parole to family of living and deceased veterans as long as they are on active duty or actively enlisted in the Selected Reserve. Relatives of former armed forces personnel with a dishonorable discharge record are ineligible for parole, so don’t attempt to leverage their status to qualify.
File a Humanitarian Parole Request While Going Through Removal Proceedings
A removal proceeding is the first step in the deportation process. The USCIS uses the terms “removal” and “deportation” interchangeably in their manuals because of how frequently removal petitions push through.
If prosecutors furnish the court with enough supporting evidence to prove you are staying in-country illegally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel will request a warrant for your detainment. Our attorneys at The Costas Network serve many people who find themselves in this precarious situation. Some of them qualify for humanitarian parole because:
- They contract a life-threatening illness before detention or inside their jail cells.
- They are currently carrying a child.
- They are under 18 years old or are otherwise incapable of taking care of themselves because of a disability.
- The justice system requires their testimony and presence in other ongoing legal proceedings.
It’s important to remember that humanitarian parole will not absolve you of past immigration crimes. The courts will still put you on trial for your previously unlawful presence in the United States. In addition, eligible parolees with courtroom and testimonial duties must show up at every hearing and leave the USA on the agreed-upon date on their approval notice.
The deportation process starts when the Department of Homeland Security serves you an NTA or a Notice to Appear; this is an ideal time to hire legal representation and file for humanitarian parole. The NTA contains the scheduled date for your master calendar hearing, which will lead to a second merits hearing where you present your case in front of a judge. With proper legal guidance and humanitarian parole, you stand a better chance of winning, no matter the weight of evidence against you.
List of USCIS Parole Programs
Apart from granting significant public benefit parole to applicants with urgent medical reasons for their visit or extension of stay, the USCIS also gives them to family members through the following programs:
- The Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program seeks to reunite Haitian-Americans with permanent resident status with their relatives waiting in line for a visa.
- The Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program lets permanent American residents from Cuba bring their families over as the USCIS clears their visa request backlog.
- The Central American Minor Refugee/Parole Program allows legal entry for children under 18 years old from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Most of them cross the U.S.-Mexico border looking for asylum.
- The Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program allows the relatives of Filipino allies to stay in-country legally while waiting for their Green Cards.
- International Entrepreneur Parole grants executives of U.S.-based start-up companies and their families temporary entry, especially if they can foster job creation and sizable contributions to the local economy.
- The Immigrant Military Members and Veterans Initiative, a collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security and Veteran Affairs, lets non-citizen and immigrant military personnel access benefits and parole even after retiring.
You can complete a new form and create another application after going through an initial denial from these programs. You can also qualify for multiple kinds of paroles simultaneously. However, it’s essential to read the fine print before contacting the USCIS, as some of these programs have caveats.
For example, before you qualify for International Entrepreneur Parole, you must have at least $250,000 of pooled or individual investments from U.S.-based sources in your start-up company 18 months after the approval of your application. Otherwise, the USCIS won’t grant you an extension. The agency requires that you own at least 10% of a start-up and that it’s not more than five years old.
The government approves individuals based on the economic contributions their business ventures provide to the U.S. economy. In addition, it must find no evidence of questionable business practices or fellow executives with a criminal history.
Who Does Not Qualify for USCIS Parole?
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will disqualify you from parole if you fall into any of the following categories:
- Individuals with prior involvement with terrorist organizations
- Applicants deemed threats to national security
- People with a deportation record, currently undergoing removal proceedings, or other legal proceedings related to their immigration status
- Foreigners with no humanitarian cause for visiting
How To Apply and Costs of Application
You have to present two documents to the USCIS to qualify:
- Application for Travel Document or Form I-131
- Affidavit of Support or Form I-134, proving you have financial support during your stay
The agency uses Form I-131 for all humanitarian parole applications, re-entry permits, and granting advance permission to travel. You only need to input personal information you would usually find in a passport, with additional accounting for medical records and whether you have sufficient funds for the estimated cost of your stay. You may also have to outline the medical reasons behind your parole, including details about your illness.
They charge a filing fee of $575 to process it, but they process an Affidavit of Support for free.
An Affidavit of Support assures the government that a third party is willing to cover the costs of living for a parolee. A family member usually fills this role, but the law allows unrelated individuals to become a sponsor, too. If the signatories of Form I-864 refuse to provide the agreed-upon financial resources for parolees, the government can step in and enforce the law.
An Affidavit of Support can maintain its enforceability until the beneficiary becomes a lawful U.S. citizen. They can last up to ten years, as the U.S. immigration system may take months to put an application through its first reading and up to three years to grant a Green Card.
You can file a Form I-912 to ask them to waive your filing fee for an advance parole document or Form I-134, but you will have no guarantee they’ll grant it.
Unless you’re a refugee, you need to prove to the USCIS that you have sufficient finances to support yourself throughout your parole period. Many applicants enlist themselves as their sponsor, but others take advantage of connections to third-party sources of funds. The agency does not require your sponsor to have a green card or be an American citizen, but it helps.
Your sponsor can be an organization. An authorized representative of the non-profit or corporation that will sponsor you must fill out Form I-134 and Affidavit of Support or present a letter to the USCIS committing funds until your stay is over.
Do You Need Help Dealing With the USCIS?
Humanitarian parole often serves as the best legal solution for people who want to enter the country for a temporary period without U.S. citizenship as the primary goal.
However, the legal process can be tricky, especially if you have been in the country forever and your parole expires. Contact the Costas Network Law Center today by calling (216) 862-8380 and let an experienced attorney help you navigate the immigration process.