A brief overview of humanitarian parole- not just for Ukrainians
Humanitarian parole (HP) is a benefit that allows people who are not eligible for visas to come to the US temporarily for “urgent humanitarian reasons” or “significant public benefit.” For example, someone in need of critical medical treatment, or who has a relative in the United States who they need to visit, support, or care for during an end of life stage. A significant public benefit could be participating in a medical trial or legal proceedings.
When adjudicating a HP application, USCIS considers all the circumstances, including whether the need for parole can be accomplished in a reasonable period of time, the person’s background and any criminal history, and, what’s important for our purposes today, how they will be supported financially while in the US.
HP is typically not allowed to be used to circumvent the normal immigration process. Normally, an applicant for HP must first apply for a visa, such as a visitor’s visa, and be refused by the consulate or embassy. Then, they file a form I-131, Application for Advance Parole, which goes to the Humanitarian Affairs Branch of USCIS. Along with the I-131, they must submit an I-134, Declaration of Financial support, documents to support their financial status, and evidence of the need for HP. The applicant (for a typical HP application) can sign the I-134 on his or her own behalf, or use a sponsor in the US.
USCIS created a special program for Ukrainians
But, USCIS created a different process for Ukrainians fleeing Russia. They do not have to first apply for a visa or file an I-131. They DO need a sponsor (so they cannot file on their own behalf), and the sponsor must sign an I-134 and submit evidence of the ability to support the person financially during their stay. First the sponsor submits Form I-134 online, along with supporting documents, then USCIS runs a background check on the sponsor, and then if approved, notifies the beneficiary via email to complete the process. If approved, the beneficiary will be paroled into the US for two years.
Sponsors must list a specific beneficiary, so they cannot just state a willingness to support Ukrainians in general. They do not have to be related to the beneficiary. They can support multiple beneficiaries, but each requires a separate I-134. If they are sponsoring multiple family members, they can be linked together during the online filing process.
Additionally, multiple sponsors can join together to support a beneficiary or a family of beneficiaries. In that case, they file one I-134 and then indicate the names of the others and their financial information in the supplemental documents.
Here’s what to look for on the I-134, Declaration of Financial Support
The “beneficiary” is the Ukrainian national, and the “sponsor” is the person in the US willing to support them financially. In “normal” HP cases, a person can sponsor themselves, there is an option in Part 1 to select self-sponsorship, but this should never be checked in U4U cases.
Part 2 is where the beneficiary’s info goes.
Alien registration number- an 8 or 9 digit number given to foreign nationals living the in the US. A beneficiary may not have one if they have not been here, so this field may be left blank.
If beneficiary has assets or income that they will be able to access in the US, should list that where indicated, but they still have to have a sponsor.
Anticipated length of stay should be 2 years.
Part 3 is where the sponsor’s info goes.
Sponsor needs to provide evidence of immigration status. Again, they may or may not have an Alien number. Sponsor must list all household members or dependents, and state whether they will contribute to the beneficiary in question 15. If there are multiple sponsors, they should be listed here (but remember each beneficiary needs a separate I-134.
For financial evidence, Sponsor should provide:
- Tax returns
- Employment verification letter
- Bank Statements, and/or letter from the bank stating the date the account was opened, the amount deposited this year, and the current balance.
USCIS will usually look to the federal poverty guidelines, to determine if a sponsor has enough income to support, but for U4U, they have not said they will do so. Still a good rule of thumb is the I-864P.
Other types of assistance they might include in the “Specific contributions” section:
- Receiving the beneficiary upon arrival in the United States and transporting them to initial housing;
- Ensuring that the beneficiary has safe and appropriate housing for the duration of their parole and initial basic necessities;
- As appropriate, helping the beneficiary complete necessary paperwork such as for employment authorization, for a Social Security card, and for services for which they may be eligible;
- Ensuring that the beneficiary’s health care and medical needs are met for the duration of the parole; and
- As appropriate, assisting the beneficiary with accessing education, learning English, securing employment and enrolling children in school.
In the specific program we’re discussing here, your role would be limited to reviewing the I-134, and the supporting documents, to make sure it is filled out correctly and that all supporting documents are included. For those wishing to do more, we’re sure there’s opportunities for that!