Who Is Eligible to Apply for Humanitarian Parole for U.S. Entry

When no other visa is available, but a foreign national has an urgent reason to visit the United States, a remedy known as humanitarian parole might help.

By , Attorney · Oklahoma City University School of Law
Updated by Samantha Topper Berns, Attorney · University of Miami School of Law

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows certain foreign nationals who do not have a visa to enter (or be "paroled") into the United States under the "humanitarian parole" program. A grant of humanitarian parole allows foreign nationals to travel to the U.S. in the case of an emergency or for public interest reasons. However, 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 should nevertheless be allowed to enter for compelling reasons. We'll discuss the details below.

Circumstances That Might Justify Someone Applying for Humanitarian Parole

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 might not recover, or who needs you to provide care
  • 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.

On the other hand, 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.

Uniting for Ukraine and Other Special Humanitarian Parole Programs

At times, the U.S. government will create humanitarian parole programs tailored to people whose countries are undergoing some sort of disaster or civil strife. For example, Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) is a special program for Ukrainian citizens displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As with all types of humanitarian parole, U4U is available only to people located outside the United States. To learn more about the U4U program and see if you might be eligible, read Options for National of Ukraine Seeking Asylum, TPS, or Other Protection in the United States.

Other types of humanitarian parole include Family Reunification Parole for certain Latin American countries and for certain service members and their families already in the United States.

Humanitarian Parole Is a Last-Resort Remedy

Although USCIS states that anyone can apply for humanitarian parole, this relief is usually granted only to people with true emergency or medical situations or who need to be in the U.S. for public interest reasons. Humanitarian parole cannot be used to sidestep denied visa applications or to avoid applying for a waiver. USCIS will likely deny a request for humanitarian parole that is being used merely to get around other visa requirements.

For example, 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.

On the other hand, if you are eligible for a B-2 visitor visa but need to travel to the U.S. to visit or take care of an ill family member, and the local U.S. consulate in your country is taking a longer time to process B-2 visitor visas than the process to apply for humanitarian parole, you could decide to apply for humanitarian parole and put USCIS on notice that you need to travel solely to visit your family member.

Some other possible reasons you might not be able to enter on a visa are:

  • you are considered ineligible for a B-2 visitor visa because you overstayed your visa on a previous trip or you are for other reasons, or
  • you will need to stay in the United States longer than a visitor can on a B-2 visa.

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, "Application Type." You'll notice that there's no box to check for "humanitarian parole." Instead, the form asks about "advance parole" in question 1e. This is the box you should check if applying for yourself. If you are in the United States and you are applying for someone who is outside the U.S., 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 (though extensions are possible).

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 when and where you applied for a visa. Also include a copy of the visa refusal.

You might wish to supply evidence that you can pay for your entire trip (including any medical treatment) and for your return home, or explain that your sponsor will cover your expenses (if applicable). A good attorney can be very helpful in writing your cover letter and presenting your evidence to USCIS in a convincing way.

If your situation is extremely urgent and you need an answer in less time than USCIS typically takes (which can be several weeks or months), you can request what's called "expedited processing." To do this, write "EXPEDITE" on the top right corner of the application and supply detailed evidence of why USCIS should speed up its decision in your case.

Special Requirements If Seeking Parole for Medical Reasons

Humanitarian parole can be requested for medical reasons, for example receiving medical treatment for yourself, caring for a very sick relative, or visiting a relative with a terminal diagnosis.

When seeking treatment for yourself, you should include evidence from medical professionals such as a written 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.

If traveling to see or care for someone else who is sick or dying, you should also include evidence of the diagnosis from medical professionals, and evidence of why your travel is urgent. For example, a hospital social worker might be able to provide a letter stating that you are needed to provide comfort or care to your relative while they undergo treatment.

For more on gathering this sort of evidence, see B-2 Visa for U.S. Medical Treatment: Who Qualifies.

Undocumented Immigrants Should Not File First-Time Applications for Humanitarian Parole

If you currently live in the United States and you do not have legal immigration status or you 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. to enter the country 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 might also alert USCIS to the fact that you are living in the U.S. without authorization. To learn more, see Immigration Options for Undocumented Immigrants or How to Extend Your Stay or Change Your Status While on a B Visa.

You can, however, apply to extend humanitarian parole if you are currently in the U.S. due to a grant of humanitarian parole. See instructions about how to apply for "re-parole" at the USCIS website.

Applying for Humanitarian Parole in Removal Proceedings

Although you normally cannot apply for humanitarian parole if you are in the U.S. without documentation, you might be able to apply for humanitarian parole if you are in removal proceedings in the United States. You would need to complete the required forms and include a detailed explanation about why you need this remedy.

If you or a family member are detained at an immigration detention facility 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 people in immigration detention specify that certain groups will be given special consideration, including:

  • people with serious medical conditions
  • women medically certified as pregnant
  • juveniles
  • 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 Application for Humanitarian Parole Is Denied

There is no appeal process if your application for humanitarian parole is denied. However, USCIS does allow people to apply again if circumstances have changed or if they can include more information or evidence in the new application about the emergency situation that was not present in the previous application or if new relevant details emerge about the situation that would help.

If, 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.

An Experienced Immigration Attorney Can Help You Apply

It is important to seek professional legal help if you have questions about how to complete and file this application. Remember that non-attorneys (including paralegals and "notarios") cannot offer legal advice and might not have the correct information or be in a strong position to help you. Immigration-related applications often take months to process, and a denial due to insufficient evidence or a mistake on a form can cost you even more time. 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 help from an experienced immigration attorney.

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