DHS Increases Numerical Limit on Venezuela Parole Program and Expands Parole Process to Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua
The Biden Administration has authorized a combined total of up to 30,000 parole travel authorizations per month from the countries of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Starting today, citizens of Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua and their immediate family members can be sponsored for parole via this expanded DHS entry program, while citizens of Venezuela will continue to be eligible for parole under the existing program that was launched in October 2022. To qualify, applicants must be outside the United States, be a citizen of one of the covered countries or the spouse, common law partner, or unmarried child of such a citizen, and undergo security vetting, along with several other criteria. U.S. sponsors initiate the process by filing a declaration of support with USCIS, certifying their commitment to provide financial and other support to named beneficiaries. Approved beneficiaries are eligible for parole into the United States and work authorization for up to two years.
To help address the current crisis at the southwest border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is modifying the numerical limits applicable to paroles from Venezuela and expanding eligibility for parole to citizens of Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua. In lieu of the limit of 24,000 total travel authorizations for Venezuela, which was set in October 2022 when that parole program was announced, the Biden Administration will now allow up to 30,000 parole travel authorizations per month from the countries of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, combined.
DHS has stated that it will continue to evaluate this monthly limit and make overall adjustments as needed. The Administration has not placed either an overall numerical limit, or a finite expiration date, on the expanded parole process for the four covered countries.
As DHS has done for citizens of Venezuela, the agency has now opened a process for citizens of Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua located outside the United States, and certain immediate family members of those citizens, to secure parole into the United States for a period of up to two years, based on an online sponsorship submission by a U.S. sponsor.
The application process for this expanded parole program is detailed on the USCIS website. The process permits eligible applicants to be sponsored for parole by an eligible U.S.-based sponsor. Federal Register notices providing further details will be published on January 9; advance copies of the notices covering the parole programs for Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua, and minor modifications to the existing program for Venezuela, are available on the Federal Register website.
Beneficiaries from the covered countries and their family members approved via this process will be authorized to travel to the United States and be considered for parole, on a case-by-case basis, for a period of up to two years. Individuals paroled through this process will be eligible to apply for work authorization after arrival in the United States.
The two-year parole period will also enable paroled individuals to seek humanitarian relief or other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible (such as potential asylum, or [for Cubans] adjustment of status pursuant to the Cuban Adjustment Act). DHS has stated that those not granted asylum or other immigration benefits during the two-year parole period generally will need to depart the United States prior to the expiration of their parole period or be subject to removal proceedings.
Under this expanded set of parole programs, U.S.-based individuals (or individuals representing an entity) can apply to sponsor eligible citizens from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, or Venezuela, and their immediate relatives, who meet the following criteria:
- Are a citizen of one of the four covered countries, or an immediate family member (spouse, common-law partner, or unmarried child under the age of 21) accompanying an eligible citizen of a covered country;
- Are outside the United States;
- Possess a passport valid for international travel (minor children must have their own passport and may not be included on a parent’s passport);
- Provide for their own commercial travel to a U.S. airport and final U.S. destination (entry at a land port of entry is not permitted);
- Undergo and clear required screening and vetting;
- Not be a permanent resident or dual national of, or hold refugee status in, any other country (unless either DHS operates a similar parole process for that other country’s nationals, or the individual is an accompanying immediate family member of an eligible citizen of one of the four covered countries);
- Not be an unaccompanied child (children under the age of 18 must be traveling to the United States in the care and custody of their parent or legal guardian);
- Not have been ordered removed from the United States within the past five years or be subject to a bar based on a prior removal order;
- Not have unlawfully crossed the Mexican or Panamanian borders either after October 19, 2022 (for Venezuela), or after January 9, 2023 (for Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua);
- Not have crossed irregularly into the United States, between ports of entry, either after October 19, 2022 (for Venezuela), or after January 9, 2023 (for Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua). However, individuals who have crossed without authorization into the United States after December 20, 2022 (for Venezuela) or after January 9, 2023 (for Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua) are permitted a one-time option to voluntarily depart or voluntarily withdraw their application for admission and remain eligible for the parole program;
- Comply with all additional requirements, including vaccination requirements and other public health guidelines;
- Demonstrate that a favorable exercise of discretion is warranted.
Individuals who hold lawful U.S. immigration status or are parolees or beneficiaries of deferred action can serve as a sponsor under the parole programs for the four covered countries. Eligible sponsors include those holding the following immigration statuses:
- U.S. citizens and nationals;
- U.S. lawful permanent residents;
- Nonimmigrants in lawful status;
- Asylees, refugees, and parolees;
- Holders of Temporary Protected Status (TPS);
- Beneficiaries of deferred action, including DACA beneficiaries; and
- Individuals holding Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
Sponsors can include individuals acting on behalf of an organization. Multiple sponsors can join together to support beneficiaries.
A U.S.-based sponsor must pass security and background vetting and demonstrate sufficient financial resources to support the sponsored beneficiary for the duration of the parole period.
Obligations of sponsorship
U.S.-based individuals seeking to sponsor citizens of any of the four covered countries, and their immediate family members, under these parole programs must complete new USCIS Form I-134A, Declaration of Financial Support, and submit the form online. The sponsor must identify the beneficiary being sponsored; supporters may not file a Form I-134A on behalf of an unnamed beneficiary. The Form I-134A must provide detailed information about the U.S. sponsor’s income, employment, and assets. There is no fee for the Form I-134A, or for issuance of the requested travel authorization or parole approval.
Sponsors must submit a separate Form I-134A for each individual they are seeking to sponsor/support, including immediate family members and minor children. So, for example, if a U.S. supporter seeks to sponsor a family of five, the sponsor must complete, and submit online, five separate Form I-134As, one for each family member.
In signing Form I-134A, sponsors commit to provide financial and other support to beneficiaries for the duration of the parole, or up to two years. This can include ensuring that the beneficiary has adequate housing and basic necessities; helping the beneficiary access benefits and services (such as obtaining employment authorization, a Social Security card, and education); helping the beneficiary obtain employment; and ensuring that the beneficiary’s health care and medical needs are met for the duration of the parole.
Minor modifications to existing parole program for Venezuela
In expanding the parole program, DHS is making the following three modifications to the parole program that was established for Venezuela in October 2022:
- The limit of 24,000 total travel authorizations for Venezuelan nationals and their immediate family members is being eliminated. In its place, DHS has set a combined total monthly limit of 30,000 travel authorizations per month for paroles under the programs for Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua.
- Venezuelan nationals are no longer ineligible for parole due to being a permanent resident or dual national of, or holding refugee status in, another country, if DHS operates a similar parole program for that other country.
- Venezuelan nationals are no longer ineligible for parole for having crossed irregularly into the United States, between ports of entry, after October 19, 2022, if they had only a single such crossing, the crossing occurred after December 20, 2022, and they voluntarily departed or voluntarily withdrew their application for admission.
DHS has established these parole programs in order to reduce the number of nationals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela attempting entry at the southwest border to flee the humanitarian and economic crises and conditions in these countries. These processes are modeled on the “Uniting for Ukraine” (U4U) parole program, which was launched in April 2022.
The agency has stated that nationals of the covered countries who attempt to enter the United States by crossing the Mexico-U.S. border between ports of entry will be returned to Mexico.
What this means for prospective sponsors and beneficiaries
Prospective beneficiaries and their sponsors should review the USCIS website for further detailed information on the parole application and screening process for the four covered countries. DHS has not specified how long it will take to process these parole applications.