What Is the New Immigration Parole Program?
How Can I Apply?
The United States offers several immigration parole programs for foreign nationals living in countries impacted by unsafe circumstances. One of the newest immigration parole programs, Uniting for Ukraine, is designed to assist Ukrainian immigrants during Russia’s invasion of the country.
Here’s what you need to know about using the Uniting for Ukraine program or sponsoring a Ukrainian national.
What Is Immigration Parole?
Immigration-related parole doesn’t have anything in common with criminal parole. They are completely distinct types of parole. Criminal parole is when a convicted offender is allowed to leave prison before their sentence is officially finished. Then, the offender remains under the monitoring of law enforcement agencies until their regular sentence would have been completed.
Immigration parole is one of the United States government’s humanitarian immigration measures for emergency intervention.
It would be unethical to remove someone from the United States or deny them entry if sending them home or keeping them there would place them in a dangerous situation. Immigration parole is a form of relief written into immigration law that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can use in exceptional immigration cases.
Immigration parole is the process that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to allow certain non-citizens to enter or remain in the country due to passing circumstances in their country of origin. USCIS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and CBP have parole authority to grant or deny a parole request on a case-by-case basis; parole can even be granted at a U.S. port of entry.
These people are allowed to stay in the United States whether or not they have a valid visa (or a pending application with USCIS). They’re able to bypass the waiting process for visas or special status recognition due to the fact that returning to or remaining in their home could cause them serious harm.
How Does Immigration Parole Work?
People who are eligible for immigration parole due to circumstances in their home country can petition for immigration parole.
Immigration parole is available to people living outside of the United States. Foreign nationals currently in the United States with a visa or permanent resident status that will soon expire, and immigrants currently in removal proceedings for overstaying a visa or entering the country without documentation may be eligible for other benefits such a Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Immigration parole is an emergency last hope for people who need help the most.
If immigration parole is granted, the recipient is allowed to remain in the United States for the period of time specified by their immigration parole documents. In many cases, recipients of immigration parole are able to apply for Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) that will allow them work authorization and the opportunity to support themselves in the United States throughout the duration of their stay.
Some people apply for immigration parole while they’re waiting on a decision for an immigrant visa or another visa that will help them to stay in the country for a longer period of time. If approved, immigration parole will allow them to remain in the United States until they receive a final decision on a visa application.
Additionally, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) permits the Secretary of Homeland Security to grant parole to any non-citizen for urgent humanitarian reasons or reasons relevant to public interest.
How Is Immigration Parole Different From Humanitarian Parole?
Immigration parole is a humanitarian effort of the United States government, but it is different from humanitarian parole. Humanitarian parole is designed to cover visits to the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons, where the United States is acting in a humanitarian manner, or the foreign national has come to the United States for humanitarian purposes.
Humanitarian parole is granted on a. case-by case basis. Humanitarian parole is often granted for urgent medical circumstances. Someone who needs a life-saving operation or treatment they can only receive in the United States may be granted humanitarian parole for their medical treatment. Organ donors from other countries may be allowed to enter the United States on humanitarian parole to save the life of someone living in the United States.
If you have a critically ill relative who needs care or may not survive much longer, you may receive humanitarian parole to visit or care for your family member. If that family member passes away, you could be granted humanitarian parole to attend their funeral or memorial service.
Humanitarian parole can also be granted to individuals who are being targeted for persecution by their government or by military groups in their country. This would apply to whistleblowers or high-profile individuals who are not criminals in the eyes of the United States but may be harshly punished in their home countries.
What Is the New Immigration Parole Program?
One of the newest immigration parole programs, Uniting for Ukraine, was put into place by the Biden Administration and Congress in April of 2022.
This immigration parole program is designed to provide relief to Ukraine nationals impacted by Russia’s invasion of their home country. There are other programs for immigration parole, such as one for nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela (part of the Processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans), and another for elderly Filipino veterans from WW2 (the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program), among others.
The parole application and parole process for Uniting for Ukraine is very simple. The Uniting for Ukraine program only requires applicants to submit a declaration of financial support. The declaration means that there is an individual or an organization in the United States that is willing to sponsor the foreign national throughout the period of time they receive immigration parole in the United States.
The sponsor does not need to be a person with a familial relationship to the immigrant requesting parole. Ukrainian nationals can be sponsored by families, individuals, charities or other organizations working to provide relief efforts to those impacted by the ongoing attacks on Ukraine.
Who Is Eligible for Uniting for Ukraine?
Any Ukrainian citizen with a valid Ukrainian passport who lived in Ukraine prior to Russia’s invasion of the country is eligible for the Uniting for Ukraine immigration parole program.
Eligibility also extends to their immediate family members, such as their children or spouse, even if they didn’t live in Ukraine during the invasion. Immediate family members obtain eligibility through a family member who lived in the country during the invasion.
Everyone who applies for the Uniting for Ukraine program has to have a sponsor in the United States. It is the sponsor’s role to assume financial responsibility for the Ukrainian immigrant coming to the United States on immigration parole.
The sponsor does not necessarily have to be an individual or a relative of the Ukrainian citizen. Charities and other humanitarian relief organizations who are willing to sponsor Ukrainian immigrants can file petitions for immigrants seeking parole and act as their sponsors.
As with any immigration program, recipients of the Uniting for Ukraine program must pass a background and biometrics check before entering the U.S. This assures that dangerous criminals or people assuming the identities of others can’t use the program to enter the United States under false pretenses.
Minors traveling without a parent or guardian are not eligible for Uniting for Ukraine. Children traveling to the United States without a parent or guardian present are at risk for human trafficking and other harm. Children who enter the country this way are placed in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services until the government can find the best way to reunite them with their guardians.
There may be some exceptions where certain children can apply for parole, but this process is different from the process of Uniting for Ukraine.
Who Can Be a Supporter for Ukrainian Immigrants?
A supporter for Ukrainian immigrants must be in lawful status in the United States or a parolee or beneficiary of deferred action or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). If you have the financial means to support an immigrant seeking safe haven in the United States during Russia’s invasion, you can volunteer to assist a Ukrainian national or a family.
If you connect with a Ukrainian refugee you would like to sponsor, you can fill out a support petition (Form I-134; Affidavit of Support) on their behalf. The support petition means that you’re responsible for helping the Ukrainian immigrant find housing, meet their basic needs, and receive healthcare if and when it is necessary to do so.
You’ll file the petition and provide proof of your income and ability to provide support for a Ukrainian national. You also have to attest that you understand the rule regarding children under 18 participating in the program and that the recipient of parole benefits has received all necessary vaccinations, including the COVID-19 vaccine.
What Happens When Someone Is Approved for the Program?
If a Ukrainian national is approved to enter the United States under the Uniting for Ukraine program, it will receive travel authorization through USCIS. Applicants can create online USCIS accounts where they can track the status of their case in real time. As soon as they receive travel authorization, they have 90 days to enter the United States.
Ukrainian nationals are responsible for finding their own way to the United States and covering their own travel costs. Immigrants who cannot afford to cover their own travel costs can utilize charity programs designed specifically for this purpose or seek funding from their sponsor in the United States.
Upon arrival, immigration parole recipients are eligible to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The fee is waived for their first EAD application, but they may have to pay a renewal fee if they remain in the United States until their first EAD expires.
Once they’ve obtained their Employment Authorization Document, they will also receive a Social Security number and can begin working in the United States.
When parolees arrive in the United States, they’re subject to the same rules that any other migrant is subject to. They’re required to abide by the laws of the United States, keep an accurate address on file with USCIS at all times, and respond to any correspondence sent by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or the Department of Homeland Security.
Their parole may be terminated if they leave the United States without prior authorization via an Application for Travel Document filed with USCIS or if they commit a crime or are deemed a threat to national security. Parolees are allowed to remain in the United States for the entire period of their immigration parole.
How Long Does the Parole Period Last?
The parole period is currently set to last for two years. Parole status does not prevent Ukrainian nationals from applying for other relevant visas or statuses once they reach the United States. Two years is a long time. During this time, it’s reasonable that a Ukrainian refugee may begin the process of establishing a family or family reunification in the United States.
If you are to become engaged or married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident during this period, you’re able to apply for relevant visas by the parameters set by USCIS or the U.S. Department of State. If you provide specialized work for your employer in the United States, they may be able to sponsor your stay in the United States for a longer period by filing on your behalf for an employment-related petition.
Because this program is new and the situation in Ukraine is ongoing, it is unknown if Ukrainian parolees will be eligible to reinstate their parole status at the end of their parole period.
The United States will often extend parole periods or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for foreign nationals from countries that remain unsafe after the initial parole period has lapsed. You can also apply for a different immigration status, like a green card, while your parole period is still ongoing.
What If Someone Is Not Approved for the Uniting for Ukraine Program?
To be approved for the United for Ukraine program, immigrants must meet eligibility requirements and consent to a biometrics appointment. The most important determining factor is the sufficiency of the support form provided by their sponsor.
USCIS will review the support forum and determine if the sponsor has the financial needs to support the Ukrainian beneficiary. If USCIS feels that the sponsor is financially insufficient to support an immigrant, they will reject the petition.
A rejection doesn’t mean that a Ukrainian immigrant is never allowed to enter the United States as a part of the Uniting for Ukraine program. It means that they will need to find another sponsor, or their sponsor will need to retry and file the petition with any missing information that may have prompted a denial.
If you are attempting to sponsor a Ukrainian immigrant and your petition was rejected, you can seek legal help from an experienced immigration attorney. If you have improperly filed the paperwork or failed to include important evidence regarding your financial situation, an immigration attorney will be able to help you reopen your petition with all the necessary information included.
This increases the chance that you will be approved on your second application as long as you genuinely have the financial means to support an immigrant.
Do You Need Legal Help With the New Immigration Parole Program?
The Cohen, Tucker & Ades team has over 40 years of experience helping immigrants live the American dream. If you need help receiving immigrant parole or sponsoring a Ukrainian immigrant, contact us.