U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows foreign residents who have not been able to obtain a visa for any of various reasons to receive an alternative known as humanitarian parole. A grant of humanitarian parole allows foreign residents to travel to the U.S. in the case of an emergency or based on public interest reasons.
The most common applications for humanitarian parole include those based on a wish to visit ill family members living inside the U.S., to attend funerals, and to seek medical help in the United States. However, there is no required specific emergency or humanitarian purpose necessary to apply for humanitarian parole. USCIS will review applications and approve or deny them on a case-by-case basis. To learn more about humanitarian parole, please see Nolo’s article “What Is Humanitarian Parole?”
Humanitarian Parole Is a Last-Resort Remedy
Although USCIS states that anyone can apply for humanitarian parole, this relief is usually only granted to those with true emergency or medical situations or who need to be in the U.S. for public interest reasons. However, humanitarian parole cannot be used to sidestep denied visa applications or in lieu of an application for a waiver. USCIS will likely deny a request for humanitarian parole that is being used merely to get around other visa requirements.
If another avenue for travel to the U.S. is available to you (such as a B-2 visitor visa), USCIS will typically deny the application for humanitarian parole unless you can show that parole should be granted for a specific humanitarian emergency. For example, you may be eligible for a visitor visa but need to travel to the U.S. to visit an ill family member, and know that the process to apply for the visitor visa will take longer than the process to apply for humanitarian parole. (Approval of humanitarian parole can take between 60 and 120 days.) In such a case, you may decide to apply for humanitarian parole and put USCIS on notice that you need to travel solely to visit your family member.
Undocumented Immigrants Should Not File First-Time Applications for Humanitarian Parole
If you currently live in the U.S. and you are undocumented (do not have legal immigration status or remained here after your authorized stay expired), you should not apply for humanitarian parole. The main purpose of humanitarian parole is to allow foreign residents who are “stuck” outside the U.S. entry in order to attend to an emergency situation.
If you are already in the U.S., then you do not need a travel document in order to attend to an emergency situation in the United States. An application for humanitarian parole is not necessary and will not grant you legal status. Your application would likely be denied because USCIS would assume that you are attempting to bypass immigration procedures in order to obtain legal status in the United States. It may also alert USCIS to the fact that you are living in the U.S. without authorization.
You can, however, apply to extend humanitarian parole if you are currently in the U.S. due to a grant of humanitarian parole. To apply for an extension, you must file the forms that you filed the first time that you applied (Form I-131, Application for Travel Document and Form I-134, Affidavit of Support). If you received a paper copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record at the U.S. border, you should include that as well. You can find instructions about how to apply for an extension of humanitarian parole at the USCIS website here.
Applying for Humanitarian Parole in Removal Proceedings
Although you cannot apply for humanitarian parole if you are in the U.S. without documentation, there's an exception if you are in removal proceedings. You need to complete the required forms, and include a detailed explanation about why you need humanitarian parole. This application should be sent to the following address:
Homeland Security Investigations
Attn: Law Enforcement Parole Unit
11320 Random Hills Rd Stop 5122
Fairfax, VA 20598-5122
This address is different from the address for humanitarian parole applications for applicants who are not in removal proceedings. If you are detained at an immigration detention facility (or you have a family member who is detained) and wish to apply for humanitarian parole, the application and request must be sent to the local field office director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Immigration laws related to humanitarian parole for individuals in immigration detention specify that certain groups of people will be given special consideration, including:
- people with serious medical conditions
- women medically certified as pregnant
- witnesses in judicial, administrative, or legislative proceedings, and
- people who should be released for the “public interest.”
To learn more about special considerations for people held at detention facilities, see “Immigration Detention 101: Information for Detainees’ Family and Friends.”
If an Application for Humanitarian Parole Is Denied
There is no appeal process if your application for humanitarian parole is denied. However, USCIS does allow you to apply again if circumstances have changed or if you can include more information or evidence in the new application about the emergency situation that was not present in your previous application.
Additionally, if new details emerge about your situation that would help your application, you can apply again. For example, your previous application to visit an ill family member was denied but now you have learned that your family member’s condition is much more serious, you can apply again with this new information.
USCIS normally takes between 60 and 120 days to make a decision regarding an application. This can vary for a number of reasons, however. If you fail to include sufficient information in your first application, you will face another long waiting period for your second application to be reviewed.