Image of chandelier light


Stay up-to-date on the latest immigration law news, with the Cohen & Tucker team's insights behind the headlines

What Is the Humanitarian Parole Program?

The Basics About Humanitarian Parole

Humanitarian Parole is Designed to Help Those in Urgent Need

The Humanitarian Parole program can be a helpful (or even life-saving) resource for people who need to enter the United States urgently. It helps to remove many barriers to entry when there may not be time to navigate a formal process. Here’s what you should know about the Humanitarian Parole program and how it may help people in pressing situations.

What Is the Origin and Purpose of the Humanitarian Parole Program?

The Humanitarian Parole program began in 1965 as part of an immigration reform law package that sought to expand reasons for immigration and create exceptions for situations where navigating bureaucratic red tape wouldn’t be feasible. 

Historical Overview

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, was extremely progressive for its time. It reshaped rules, quotas, and regulations regarding immigration to make the United States a more welcoming place for a diverse world of individuals to contribute their talents and build their homes. 

This act became the basis for the Humanitarian Parole program. It carved out exceptions for people who needed to enter the United States very quickly, such as war refugees and people in need of emergency medical treatment they may not be able to access elsewhere. 

Primary Objectives

Humanitarian Parole can be granted under two specific circumstances: if an individual has an urgent humanitarian need to enter the United States or if their entrance into the United States would be of significant public benefit. 

A recent example of Humanitarian Parole being used for urgent humanitarian needs is the Uniting for Ukraine humanitarian parole program. This program was designed to help Ukranians fleeing the armed conflict in their home country by giving them a safe, quick path to the shelter of the United States. 

Who Oversees and Manages the Humanitarian Parole Program?

Because the Humanitarian Parole program is intended to be as simple as possible, almost any United States immigration or border protection agency can oversee and manage humanitarian cases. People looking to enter the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons can’t wait to be redirected through the bureaucracy, so they may receive an answer from whichever institution they encounter first.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

USCIS manages petitions relating to humanitarian parole. They process the paperwork and help to register humanitarian parole recipients with official immigration databases. They also receive and process work authorization documents for people who wish to work in the United States during their humanitarian parole stay.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for designating nationally recognized humanitarian crises and recognizing who should be eligible if the crisis is widespread. They also designated countries for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which has some similarities with humanitarian parole.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

CBP greets people at the border. If you present yourself at a United States port of entry and request humanitarian parole, they may be able to assist you. Parole will officially be granted or denied by USCIS after CBP passes along your information.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

ICE makes decisions and handles cases when someone facing deportation or removal proceedings requests humanitarian parole as an alternative to deportation. This situation only applies to unique cases and is best navigated with the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney because removal proceedings can significantly complicate an immigration case.

Who Is Eligible for Humanitarian Parole?

Humanitarian parole is a unique situation. It isn’t a clear-cut practice used in immigration policy to award status to people seeking entry into the United States. Humanitarian parole is often explored as a possibility when it’s the only option, and the need to come to the United States is urgent. This is how USCIS evaluates cases of people seeking humanitarian parole.

Criteria and Considerations

Evaluations are made on a case-by-case basis, and the family reunification parole program provides a new pathway for family members. Specific nationalities like Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, Ukrainians, and Venezuelans may have better access to the humanitarian parole program.

Technically, anyone who is admissible into the United States could be considered for humanitarian parole if they meet the criteria for the program. Someone who has a life-threatening medical condition and needs the help of a specialty doctor or surgeon can request humanitarian parole no matter what country they’re from or if they have family in the United States.

Evaluations are always made on a case-by-case basis. USCIS wants as much information from you as possible. If they believe humanitarian parole would be necessary for your situation or beneficial to the United States, they will grant you humanitarian parole. 

The family reunification parole program works to reunite family members in Cuba, El Salvador, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Honduras with their family members living in the United States if they have an approved immigrant visa petition to obtain a family-related green card. Humanitarian parole will allow them to live in the United States while waiting for an immigrant visa to become available to them. 

Conditions and Limitations

Humanitarian parole doesn’t grant recipients an open-ended invitation into the United States. Humanitarian parole is conditional, and it will expire when USCIS tells you that your time is up. 

Humanitarian parole generally lasts for up to one year, but it may last more or less time. It’s important to pay attention to the dates USCIS gives you and abide by them to the best of your ability. If you need more time, it’s best to speak with USCIS the moment you know you’ll need your parole period extended.

Humanitarian parole and advance parole are very different. Humanitarian parole is a standalone process that doesn’t afford you many other privileges by default. Advance parole is a parole process used for people who have a pending application for a green card or asylum when they need to leave and re-enter the United States while their applications are pending. 

How Can You Apply and What’s the Parole Process?

Before you apply for humanitarian parole, you need to be sure that it’s the best option for you. It’s only used in very special circumstances, and an immigration attorney will be able to let you know if it’s truly the right choice for your situation. If humanitarian parole is the appropriate process, it’s important to make your official request properly. 

Step-by-Step Guide

There are three steps to the humanitarian parole process:

  1. Filing the appropriate forms with USCIS (or ICE, depending upon your immigration history).
  2. Payment of filing fee (or requesting a waiver).
  3. Providing a declaration of financial support and other essential documents.

All USCIS processes begin by filing a petition. You’ll complete your petition for humanitarian parole and submit it to USCIS with other supporting documents. You may be asked to provide a declaration of financial support that demonstrates that you will not be a public charge (i.e., you have financial support or are capable of financially supporting yourself while you’re in the United States.)

The majority of USCIS petitions require petitioners to pay a filing fee. In many cases, people seeking humanitarian parole aren’t wealthy people, or they won’t have time to save up their funds. Fee waivers can be granted in urgent situations when applicants don’t have the ability to pay.

After Applying

After you’ve applied for humanitarian parole, there are three more things you may consider doing to make your stay in the United States a little easier:

  1. Make travel authorization considerations.
  2. Obtain a travel document if you need one.
  3. Obtain work authorization and employment authorization.

If you know you’ll be staying in the United States for the duration of your humanitarian parole, you won’t need a travel document. If there’s any chance you may need to leave and re-enter the United States while you’re still under humanitarian parole status, you need to request a travel document. If you don’t have prior authorization before you travel, you may not be allowed to re-enter the United States.

If you only need to use your humanitarian parole for a very short period of time, you’re probably not concerned with finding a job in the United States. If you’ve been granted humanitarian parole for an extended period of time, you may want to consider filing for an Employment Authorization Document that will allow you to work in the United States for the duration of your stay. It can sometimes take several months for these documents to be approved and issued, so it’s best to file for one immediately if you know you’ll need it. 

How Has the Humanitarian Parole Program Evolved Over Time?

The humanitarian parole program has existed for several decades, but each political administration makes changes to immigration policy. Some administrations expand the reach of USCIS and make an effort to welcome more people into the country. Other administrations attempt to limit immigration attempts.

Notable Changes and Updates Under Trump

Trump’s stances on immigration and highly reactionary policies have created complicated issues we’re still attempting to resolve to this day. His policy of separating children from their parents at the border and detaining them separately makes the reunification process very difficult. There are still hundreds of children separated from their parents many years later.

A proposed solution to Trump’s chaotic decision is to use humanitarian parole as a way to reunify families and mitigate some of the trauma caused by this policy. The case is still pending, and the decision is not yet official. 

Modifications by the Biden Administration

The Biden administration has shifted humanitarian parole policies for Afghan, Cuban, Haitian, Ukrainian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan migrants. People of these nationalities have better access to humanitarian parole due to the state of safety in their home countries or the long backlog of cases for family green cards.

What Is the Relationship Between Humanitarian Parole and Other Immigration Policies?

Humanitarian parole has a lot in common with many other humanitarian-based programs, but it’s unique in the way it’s awarded and upheld.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

While humanitarian parole is granted to individuals on a case-by-case basis, TPS is offered to a broader group of people from a specific country. Haitians, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans are eligible for TPS because the Department of Homeland Security has designated their home country as a dangerous place to return to. TPS may expire if DHS finds that the situation has been resolved.

Differences Between Parole and Permanent Residency

Parolees do not have a green card. Green cards afford immigrants to the United States many of the same rights and responsibilities as U.S. citizens. It’s also much easier for green card holders to travel in and out of the United States. Parolees will need to seek specific permission to do things like work or travel. 

What Are the Common Misconceptions about the Humanitarian Parole Program?

There’s a lot of misinformation about how humanitarian parole or other parole programs work. Some people seem to think that it acts as a universal, easy way into the United States. In truth, parole is temporary, and humanitarian parolees aren’t granted many special privileges.

Myths Debunked

There are several common myths when it comes to humanitarian parole:

  • MYTH: Parole is a path to U.S. citizenship.
  • MYTH: Parolees can stay forever, vote in elections, or act as American citizens.
  • MYTH: The Secretary of Homeland Security makes parole decisions.

Humanitarian parole is temporary, and it isn’t a pathway to United States citizenship. Humanitarian parolees don’t have the same rights and responsibilities as citizens or permanent residents. Humanitarian parole can only be granted by USCIS, or in some cases, ICE as an organization when it applies to immigration law and deportation.

What Are the Future Prospects for the Humanitarian Parole Program?

The state of immigration policy is constantly changing and evolving. Some Presidents adopt a more compassionate stance on immigrants, while others may prefer the idea of keeping the borders as closed as possible. Only time will tell how the future of immigration policy can take shape.

Predictions and Potential Reforms

Many areas of the world are in crisis, with Ukraine and Israel at the forefront of the news. Dangerous conflicts around the world can increase the need for humanitarian parole and lead to a massive influx of valid humanitarian parole requests. The high demand may change the criteria for humanitarian parole, as well as the way that cases are processed and parole is granted. 

Humanitarian parole is also being explored as an option for family reunification in cases where backlogs may be long, and family members have been waiting for years to come to the United States. Unless and until there’s a substantial change in the way these immigration petitions are processed, humanitarian parole may become the default solution for people with longstanding pending cases.

How Cohen, Tucker + Ades Can Help

Humanitarian parole has the potential to change (and save) lives. When used appropriately, it can shelter people from temporary threats or serious harm. Immigration law can change at any moment, and the scope of humanitarian parole could expand or shrink. If you believe that you or someone you love may be eligible for humanitarian parole, you can contact the immigration law team at Cohen, Tucker + Ades for a consultation on your case.


Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 | United States House of Representatives

Uniting for Ukraine | USCIS

Executive Office for Immigration Review | Temporary Protected Status (TPS) | United States Department of Justice

Settlement over Trump-era family separations at the border limits future separations for 8 years | PBS NewsHour


Not sure which option is right for you? Request a confidential consultation today.