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Albany Legal Blog

What is humanitarian parole for potential immigrants?

On Behalf of | Jun 30, 2022 | Immigration

To say that the last couple of years have been interesting would be an understatement, on so many levels.  COVID, the presidency, foreign affairs and wars.  The list goes on.  We’ve all been impacted by the events of the last few years on some level.

In my professional world, I counsel would be and actual clients on how to lawfully bring family members to the United States, how to hire foreign workers, how to make substantial investments in new or existing businesses for immigration purposes and how to avoid returning to a home country because of a well-founded fear of harm among many other things.

Sometimes, however, the road to get to the United States is not so cut-and-dry.  Sometimes, an individual needs to come to the United States for emergency medical reasons because they cannot get necessary medical care in their home country.  Sometimes a family experiences a tragedy where children are left without parental care.  And, as you think about “current events” over the past year, often individuals are displaced from their home country and our government creates a pathway for some of these individuals to lawfully come to the United States, on a temporary basis.

In specific, urgent scenarios, the immigration law has a process called “humanitarian parole”, which allows some individuals an “expedited” process to enter the United States for a specific urgent (i.e., humanitarian) reason.

Parole allows an individual who may be inadmissible or otherwise ineligible for admission into the United States to be in the United States for a temporary period for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.[1]

The humanitarian parole process is relatively straightforward (as far as immigration processes go), involving a simple application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), with sufficient (and often substantial) documentation establishing the humanitarian need.

In the last year, the Biden Administration has also directed USCIS (and the Department of State) to create a pathway, based on traditional humanitarian parole procedures, for nationals of Afghanistan, after the U.S. withdrew from that country, and for nationals from Ukraine, after Russian invaded their country, to come to the United States, for humanitarian reasons.

The rules for parole for Afghans are different than for Ukrainians, but they are both rooted in the premise that someone may enter the United States for a temporary period based on urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons.  Operation Allies Welcome provides a streamlined (although definitely not perfect) process for vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked alongside the United States and its allies in Afghanistan for the past two decades, to resettle in the United States safely.  Uniting for Ukraine provides a different process for Ukrainian citizens who have fled Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression with opportunities to come to the United States.

Generally, USCIS’s decision to grant humanitarian parole is discretionary. Humanitarian parole is also not an immigration benefit like a visa or a permanent resident card (i.e., a green card).  Nor is humanitarian parole meant to be used to circumvent normal visa processes and timelines. And, unless otherwise allowed, parolees are not typically authorized to work in the United States.  Humanitarian parole is for a defined period of time, generally tied to the nature of the urgent humanitarian need.

Having said all that, humanitarian parole is an incredibly useful, important and valuable tool to get individuals to the United States for urgent reasons.  And oftentimes, once they’re here, a plan can come together to have them remain here, perhaps even permanently.

[1] See