Foreign residents with an emergency situation requiring them to travel to the U.S. may be able to enter with a form of discretionary relief called humanitarian parole. A grant of humanitarian parole allows those who are unable to obtain a visitor visa to apply to enter the U.S. based on urgent humanitarian reasons or if there would be a significant public benefit resulting from their admittance to the United States.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants humanitarian parole “sparingly.” It focuses on admitting foreign residents who cannot otherwise qualify for an immigrant visa to the U.S., but who merit entry for compelling reasons.
If you are granted humanitarian parole, you will be permitted to remain in the U.S. only for the period of time that is necessary for you to fulfill your humanitarian need or to tend to your emergency situation. You cannot obtain any permanent benefit with a grant of humanitarian parole, but you can apply for a temporary work authorization if you will need to work in the U.S. during your stay.
When to Apply for Humanitarian Parole Instead of a Visitor Visa
Humanitarian parole may be your only option for entering the U.S. if you are inadmissible -- in other words, your personal circumstances include grounds or issues that make you ineligible for a visa to enter the United States. To learn more about inadmissibility, see “Inadmissibility: When the U.S. Can Keep You Out.”
Foreign citizens often turn to humanitarian parole as their last option to enter the United States. If you do not face any issues regarding admissibility, visit Nolo’s section on temporary visitor visas to see whether you qualify to come to the U.S. as a visitor or tourist.
Examples of People Who Might Apply for Humanitarian Parole
You may qualify for humanitarian parole for one of any number of reasons, and the applications are decided on a case-by-case basis. Some examples of why you might apply for humanitarian parole may include, but are not limited to:
- you have a family member in the U.S. who is extremely ill and may not recover
- you have a family member in the U.S. who has passed away and you wish to attend the funeral service
- you are very ill and cannot obtain the proper medical care in your home country, while that medical care is available to you in the United States, or
- you are an important witness for a trial that will be held in the United States.
How to Apply for Humanitarian Parole
To apply for humanitarian parole you will need to complete Form I-131, Application for Travel Document and Form 1-134 (Affidavit of Support), and include a written explanation that details your need. To learn more about completing Form I-134 to show that you have sufficient funds to support your stay in the U.S., see “Filling Out Form I-134 Affidavit of Support to Help a U.S. Visa Applicant.”
Form I-131 is used for several different purposes related to travel to and from the United States. Therefore, many sections are not applicable to people applying for humanitarian parole. It is important to review the instructions for Form I-131 before you complete it.
Pay special attention to Part 2, Questions 1a through 1f. Keep in mind that Form I-131 does not include a box to check for “humanitarian parole.” Instead, the form asks you about “advanced parole” in question 1e. This is the box you should check if you are applying for yourself. If you are in the U.S. and you are applying for someone who is outside the U.S. you should check box 1f.
You should specify how long you will need to stay in the United States. The maximum amount of authorized time USCIS will grant for humanitarian parole is one year.
It is also important to include evidence supporting your need for this emergency form of parole. Start with a cover letter outlining the reasons for the request. If unable to obtain a regular visa, be sure to explain the reasons why not, and to state when and where you applied for a visa. Also include a copy of the visa refusal. Also supply evidence that you can pay for your entire trip (including any medical treatment) and for your return home.
If you need an answer in less time than USCIS typically takes -- which may be several weeks or months -- you will also need to request what's called "expedited processing," and supply evidence of why USCIS should speed up its decision in your case.
Special Requirements If Seeking Medical Care
If your request for humanitarian parole is based on a medical need, you will also need to include an explanation from a doctor regarding your diagnosis, information about why you cannot obtain the medical treatment in your home country or a nearby one, the estimated cost of the treatment, how long the treatment is expected to last, and how you will pay for it.
For more on this, see “B-2 Visa for U.S. Medical Treatment: Who Qualifies.”
An Experienced Immigration Attorney Can Help You Apply
It is important to seek professional help from an attorney if you have questions about how to complete and file this application. Remember that non-attorneys (or immigration “specialists” cannot offer legal advice regarding the application and might not have the correct information or be in a strong position to help you. If you are facing a true emergency and you need to travel to the U.S. as soon as possible, you will find that it is worth your time and money to seek legal help from an experienced immigration attorney.