U.S. Government to Launch Refugee/Parole Program for Certain Central American Children

On November 14, 2014, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the anticipated establishment of a refugee/parole program for certain minor children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who have U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Resident parents in the U.S.

This program will allow certain parents who are lawfully present in the United States to request access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for their children still in one of these three countries. Children who are found ineligible for refugee admission but still at risk of harm may be considered for parole on a case-by-case basis. The refugee/parole program will not be a pathway for undocumented parents to bring their children to the United States, but instead, the program will provide certain vulnerable, at-risk children an opportunity to be reunited with parents lawfully resident in the United States.

Applications for this program will be initiated in the United States. The program is anticipated to begin in December 2014, but it is not yet in effect. Once in effect, a parent lawfully present in the United States will be able to file an application with DOS requesting a refugee resettlement interview for unmarried children under 21 in El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. Under certain circumstances, if the second parent resides with the child in the home country and is currently married to the lawfully present parent in the United States, the second parent may be added to the child’s petition and considered for refugee status, and if denied refugee status, for parole.

DHS will conduct interviews with each child to determine whether he or she is eligible for refugee status and admissible to the United States. All applicants must complete all required security checks and obtain a medical clearance before they are approved to travel as a refugee to the United States. The parent of the child will sign a promissory note agreeing to repay the cost of travel to the United States.

Applicants found by DHS to be ineligible for refugee status in the United States will be considered on a case-by-case basis for parole, which is a mechanism to allow someone who is otherwise inadmissible to come to the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. An individual considered for parole may be eligible for parole if DHS finds that the individual is at risk of harm, he/she clears all background vetting, there is no serious derogatory information, and someone has committed to financially support the individual while he/she is in the United States. Those children and any eligible parent considered for parole will be responsible for obtaining and paying for a medical clearance. An individual authorized for parole will not be eligible for a travel loan but must book and pay for the flight to the United States. Parole is temporary and does not confer any permanent legal immigration status or path to permanent legal immigration status in the United States. Parolees are not eligible for medical and other benefits upon arrival in the United States, but are eligible to attend school and/or apply for employment authorization. Individuals authorized parole under this program generally will be authorized parole for an initial period of two years and may request renewal.

The government anticipates that a relatively small number of children from Central America will be admitted to the United States as refugees in FY 2015, given the anticipated December launch and the length of time it takes to be processed for U.S. refugee admission. Any child or parent admitted as a refugee will be included in the Latin America/Caribbean regional allocation of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which is 4,000 for FY 2015. If needed, there is some flexibility within the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to accommodate a higher than anticipated number from Latin America in FY 2015.

The above program is not yet in effect and the government is currently not accepting any applications. Beware of scams by unauthorized individuals or businesses offering immigration benefits that do not exist. Even once and if the program is in effect, be sure to seek assistance from the right place and from authorized individuals.

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