How to Get into the U.S. with Humanitarian Parole

Humanitarian parole allows an alien who is ineligible for admission to the United States to enter temporarily due to a compelling emergency.

With humanitarian parole, an otherwise ineligible alien (the “beneficiary”) can get a one-time entry for a specific purpose, such as:

  • Obtaining medical treatment, 
  • Visiting an ill family member, 
  • Attending a family member's funeral, or 
  • Testifying in a U.S. court case. 

Humanitarian parole may be sought by or on behalf of either:

  • An alien outside the U.S. who is inadmissible or ineligible for a visa, or
  • An alien who is in detention in the U.S. for immigration violations.

Aliens who are already in the U.S. unlawfully or temporarily (but not in detention) should file for "advance parole" or, if they have family members in the U.S. military, for "parole in place," instead.

To obtain humanitarian parole, the beneficiary or someone applying on the beneficiaries behalf must file the following documents:Form I-131, Application for Travel Document

There is a $575 fee to file the Form I-131. Either the fee or an I-912 request for a fee waiver must be submitted with the application. There is no cost to file the Form I-134.

To help you better understand humanitarian parole under U.S. immigration laws, our California immigration lawyers discuss, below:

You may also wish to review our articles on:

  • "Advance Parole" (for non-citizens without visas to leave and re-enter the United States); and
  • "Parole in Place" (for aliens with family members who are U.S. citizens or green card holders that are members or veterans of the U.S. military).
pen lying on top of flag and notepad that reads "Welcome to America"

1. Who is eligible for humanitarian parole?

Section 212(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act 1 allows inadmissible aliens to enter (or stay in) the U.S. temporarily when:

  • There is an urgent humanitarian reason, or 
  • Allowing the alien in confers a significant public benefit.2

The relief offered under INA 212(d) is discretionary. It is considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all evidence available.

Humanitarian parole is considered a last-resort remedy as it is temporary and may come with strict conditions. It is not intended as a substitute for:

An alien should first check with the U.S. Department of State or an experienced California immigration attorney to see if he or she can be admitted into the U.S. through one of these procedures.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will usually deny an application for humanitarian parole if another avenue of travel to the U.S. (such as a B-2 visitor visa) is available.

An alien may still be eligible for humanitarian parole, however, if a true emergency exists and a standard visa would take longer.

1.1. Examples of urgent humanitarian reasons for parole

Reasons for humanitarian parole can include (but are not limited to):

  • To reunite with family members in the U.S. who are old, sick or otherwise vulnerable;
  • To care for or support a family member in the U.S. who is seriously or terminally ill;
  • To attend the funeral of or attend to the affairs of a deceased family member in the U.S.; or
  • To testify in a lawsuit in which the parolee's presence is necessary to help resolve outstanding legal issues.

1.2. Can same-sex partners get humanitarian parole?

Family members are usually related by marriage, birth, or adoption.

But parole is discretionary and the officer may consider granting it to a same-sex partner or children of a same-sex partner as a family member, particularly if the parolee is from a country where same-sex marriage is not legal.

1.3. What if I am in removal proceedings?

Humanitarian parole may be granted to people who are in detention for illegal entry. Situations warranting parole of immigration detainees include when the detainee is:

  • Seriously ill;
  • Pregnant;
  • Underage; or
  • Needed for testimony in legal proceedings.

However, before granting parole to someone in custody, the government may require reasonable assurances that the alien will appear at all hearings and/or depart the United States when required to do so.

2. Who is not eligible for parole to the United States?

An alien who does not have an urgent humanitarian reason for his or her visit must follow the normal visa-issuing procedures set by the U.S. Department of State.

Humanitarian parole will also be denied to anyone who has been involved in terrorist activities or is considered a threat to U.S. security.

3. Who can file the application?

The application can be filed by the beneficiary or someone else filing on the beneficiary's behalf.

4. How long does it take to get humanitarian parole?

Approval of humanitarian parole normally takes between 60 and 120 days once all the paperwork is in order.

But it is possible to get “expedited processing” if there is a life-threatening emergency or other extremely urgent situation.

Instructions for expedited processing appear on the USCIS Form I-131 page.

Make sure to write the word "EXPEDITE" in the top right corner of the application in black ink.

You will also need to include a detailed explanation of the reason for the request to expedite the application. Include all available supporting evidence (such as medical records and/or letters from doctors).

young man and woman sitting in hospital room worried about older man who is lying in the hospital bed

5. How long does humanitarian parole last?

Humanitarian parole lasts only for the amount of time necessary to fulfill the humanitarian need or deal with the emergency situation.

It is typically granted for no more than one year at a maximum.

Parole ends on the earliest of:

  • The date the parole period expires,
  • When the beneficiary departs the United States, or
  • When the beneficiary acquires other immigration status.

The U.S. government retains the right to revoke parole without notice if it determines that it is no longer warranted or the beneficiary has failed to comply with any conditions.

5.1. What if I need more time?

An alien who needs more time can file a request for an extension or re-parole. The request must usually be made at least 90 days before the current parole period expires and may require an additional fee.

5.2. What happens when my parole ends?

A beneficiary is required to leave the U.S. before parole expires. If the alien was originally in custody, he or she will be returned to custody.

An alien who stays beyond the term of parole is present in the U.S. unlawfully and can be deported.

6. Do I need a sponsor?

USCIS requires evidence that the parolee has or will have sufficient funds in place to adequately support him or her once in the United States.

Such funds can come from either a third-party sponsor, the parolee him- or herself, or an organization.

6.1. Third-party sponsor

The financial sponsor does not have to be the same person or entity as the person who files the petition. Each sponsor must submit a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support to show they have the financial resources to support the beneficiary during his or her stay in the United States.

The sponsor does not need to be a U.S. citizen or have a green card. However, such status may help establish the sponsor's ability to provide support.

Therefore, if the sponsor does have such status, it is a good idea to provide a copy of the sponsor's permanent residence card, naturalization certificate, birth certificate or passport with the parole request.

6.2. Self-sponsorship

A beneficiary may demonstrate that he or she is financially self-sufficient by submitting a Form I-134 for him- or herself with supporting financial documentation.

6.3. Sponsorship by an organization

A non-profit organization or medical institution may serve as a sponsor on a parole application. An authorized employee of the organization should complete a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support.

If no employee is able to do so, the petitioner should instead provide a letter from the organization committing to support the beneficiary.

7. How do I apply for humanitarian parole?

Most petitioners will file their application for humanitarian parole with USCIS.

But some aliens will need to file with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Applicants are strongly advised to check with USCIS and/or ICE to confirm which is the appropriate agency before applying.

If you have retained a California immigration lawyer to help you with your application your attorney can do this for you.

7.1. Applying to USCIS

Aliens should apply to USCIS for humanitarian parole if they have never been placed in deportation or removal proceedings and they are:

  • Seeking medical treatment in the U.S.;
  • Seeking to visit ill family members or attend a funeral in the U.S.; or
  • Testifying in a lawsuit solely between private individuals or companies (that is, where no government agency or entity is a party). 

7.2. Applying to ICE

Some applicants need to apply to ICE rather than USCIS in order to obtain humanitarian parole. They include people who:

  • Are in removal proceedings,
  • Have been deported or removed from the U.S., or
  • Are participating in legal proceedings (such as criminal prosecutions) to which the government is a party.

You can find the address for submitting documents to USCIS or ICE, as applicable, on the USCIS Form I-131 webpage.

7.3. What forms and documents do I need to submit?

To apply for humanitarian parole the applicant should submit the following:

  1. Form I-131, Application for Travel Document;
  2. Form I-134, Affidavit of Support;
  3. Either the $575 filing fee or, if appropriate, a Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver;4 and
  4. Supporting documentation, including:
  • A detailed explanation of why the petitioner is requesting parole;
  • A detailed explanation of the length of time for which parole is required;
  • A detailed explanation of why the beneficiary cannot obtain a nonimmigrant or immigrant visa from the U.S. Department of State including:
  • When and where the beneficiary attempted to obtain a visa or visas, if applicable;
  • If any visa application was denied, include a copy of the denial letter; and
  • A detailed explanation of the reasons why the beneficiary cannot obtain a waiver of inadmissibility (with a copy of the denial letter, if any);
  • Copies of any previously filed immigrant or non-immigrant petitions filed by or on behalf of the beneficiary;
  • Copies of any documents that support the request (such as medical records),
  • A clear and legible copy of a government-issued identification showing the beneficiary's citizenship (including the front and back of an original birth certificate or other applicable document); 
  • If applicable, copies of a U.S. passport, lawful permanent resident card (green card), birth certificate or other evidence of valid U.S. immigration status or citizenship for the petitioner and, if applicable the sponsor.

For more information on the type of documentation needed to support a humanitarian parole application, please the USCIS web page on "Guidance for Certain Types of Humanitarian or Significant Public Benefit Parole Requests."

7.4. Requesting parole for children

If the beneficiary is a child under the age of 18, the agency will require proof of parentage or consent of the parents for the child to travel.

Please see the USCIS Form I-131 website for details on the type of proof required.

young boy sitting in airplane window seat

8. The approval process

There are five basic steps to getting humanitarian parole:

  1. Applicant files the I-131 application with fee (or fee waiver request) and supporting documents;
  2. The agency reviews the request for urgency;
  3. An officer vets the application and makes an initial decision;
  4. A supervisor reviews the decision; and
  5. The agency notifies the petitioner if the application is approved or denied.

Parole is considered on a case-by-case.5 It will be granted if based on all the evidence the officer concludes that:

  1. There are urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons for the beneficiary to be in the United States; and
  2. The beneficiary merits a favorable exercise of discretion.

The officer will weigh the positive that favor the request against any negative factors in the applicant's record.

Factors the officer will consider include (but are not limited to):

  • Whether or not the circumstances are pressing;
  • The effect of the circumstances on the individual's welfare and wellbeing;
  • The degree of suffering that may result if parole is not authorized;
  • Whether the purpose of the parole request may be accomplished within a specific, temporary period of time;
  • Whether the beneficiary intends to leave the United States the parole expires or has means to obtain lawful immigration status during such time;
  • Whether there are national security concerns;
  • Whether there is evidence of any criminal history or previous immigration violations;
  • Whether there is evidence of any previous participation in fraud;
  • Whether the beneficiary's presence would benefit a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident or community in the United States;
  • Whether the beneficiary will have sufficient financial support while in the United States;
  • Evidence of the beneficiary's character;
  • The effect of the beneficiary's presence on a community in the United States; and
  • Whether there are other ways (such as obtaining a visa) that the beneficiary can lawfully travel to and remain in the United States for the stated purpose.

9. What happens if my petition is approved?

If the application for humanitarian parole is approved, USCIS (or ICE) will mail an approval letter to the petitioner, the beneficiary and any representative of record. The agency will also notify the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate closest to the beneficiary's residence.

The approval notice will state that the alien must complete an online Form DS-160, Application for a Nonimmigrant Visa and appear for a biometrics appointment with the Department of State consular section for verification of identity and additional security vetting.

9.1. Do I have to provide biometrics?

All beneficiaries 14 years and older must provide biometrics (fingerprinting, background check, etc.). If this vetting turns up nothing negative, the U. S. Consulate will issue a travel document known as a “boarding foil.”

9.2. What is a “boarding foil”?

A boarding foil is a document that allows the beneficiary to travel to the United States within 30 days of its being issued.

Issuance of a boarding foil does not guarantee parole but allows the beneficiary to undergo inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) at a U.S. port of entry, such as an airport or border crossing.

If CBP paroles the beneficiary, CBP will issue an I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. The I-94 shows that the beneficiary has been paroled into the U.S. It also indicates the date on which the parole expires and by which the parolee must depart the U.S.

9.3. Can I work in the United States?

Humanitarian parole does not confer work privileges. After arriving in the United States, eligible parolees may request work authorization using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

9.4. Can I travel outside the U.S. while on humanitarian parole?

No. If the alien leaves the U.S. following humanitarian parole entry, he or she must obtain another grant of parole or other permission to re-enter.

9.5. Will there be conditions on my parole?

Some, but not all, aliens may have conditions on their parole, such as reporting requirements. This is especially likely if the parolee was in detention for an immigration violation.

9.6. Can I be deported while on humanitarian parole?

Yes. Humanitarian parole does not prevent an alien from being placed into removal proceedings as a result of conduct committed after the alien's admission into the United States, or for conduct or a condition that was not disclosed prior to the alien's admission.6

An alien can also be put into removal proceedings for remaining in the U.S. after the expiration of the parole period.

10. What can I do if my petition is denied?

If a request for humanitarian parole is denied, USCIS or ICE will mail a denial letter to the petitioner, beneficiary, and any representative of record.

Denial cannot be appealed. The decision is final.

However, if there is a change in circumstances (for instance, a relative's medical condition worsens) an alien can submit a new Humanitarian Parole request.

There is no limit to the number of times a person may file. But each application requires an additional fee or fee waiver request as well as a new Form I-134 Affidavit of Support and supporting documents.

11. How can a lawyer help?

Humanitarian parole is usually a last-ditch resort for people seeking to enter the United States. Its benefits are temporary and often come with conditions. Additionally, relief is discretionary and there is no guarantee parole will be granted.

An experienced California immigration attorney may be able to help you get a visa, an inadmissibility waiver or refugee relief instead of needing to rely on parole.

And if you need humanitarian parole, a lawyer can make sure you apply to the right agency and that your application is compelling.

Need help getting into the U.S. legally? Call us…

If you or someone you know has been denied admission to the U.S., we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Our caring criminal and immigration lawyers represent people seeking post-conviction relief for a deportable crime or "inadmissible" offense, a waiver of inadmissibility, or parole or other legal means of entry to the U.S.

Don't assume that because you are inadmissible there is no way to get into the U.S.

Also see our article about U visas.

Call us at (855) 396-0370 or fill out the form on this page to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable lawyer.

Legal references:

  1. INA 212 is codified in 8 USC 1182.
  2. See INA Section 212(d)(5).
  3. See INA Section 212(d)(1).
  4. See 8 CFR 103.7(c)(3).
  5. See INA Section 212(d)(5).
  6. See 8 CFR 212.5.

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