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Family Reunification Parole Programs for Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

A new program has begun to allow some Central and South Americans who are stuck in the family visa backlog to come to the United States and reunite with their relatives while they wait for their immigrant visas to become available. But while the new programs could help nearly 75,000 people, their success will depend on the effort and resources the federal government commits to them.

The new Family Reunification Parole programs for people from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, are modeled on programs that were created for Cubans in 2007 and Haitians in 2014.

All rely on the federal government’s statutory authority to allow people to come to and stay in the United States legally, without a visa, on a case-by-case basis.

Unlike those programs, Family Reunification Parole is limited only to people who already have a way to immigrate to the U.S. legally—and, in fact, have already been approved to do so, and it will allow them to stay until they are ultimately given green cards.

Congress has capped the number of people who can receive immigrant visas each year for adult children of U.S. citizens (with separate caps for married and unmarried children); unmarried adult children of green-card holders, and siblings of U.S. citizens. But many more people apply for those visas – and are approved – than there are slots available: The Federal Register notices estimated that there are 73,500 people from all four newly eligible countries stuck in these backlogs, with 32,600 from El Salvador alone. Without the new parole opportunity, the government estimates, they could be waiting for visas for up to 15 years.

But that doesn’t mean all 73,500 of them will now be allowed to come to the United States. The U.S. State Department will individually invite beneficiaries of an approved petition to apply. You cannot apply on your own without an invite from the Dept of State.

For these programs, the federal government looks through its existing backlog of approved immigrant visa petitions filed by family members in the United States on behalf of their adult children and siblings. It then invites some of those people to apply for FRP within six months of the invitation. If they apply in time and the application for parole is also approved, the family members will be allowed to fly into the U.S. and stay while waiting for their immigrant visas to become available. At that point, they’ll become green-card holders—just as they would if they had been waiting outside the U.S.

The government cautions it will not issue invitations to everyone who’s potentially eligible. But it also doesn’t offer any estimate of how many people will be invited. The USCIS webpage about the new FRPs says only that “The number of invitations will be based on U.S. government operational capacity.”

The purpose of this program is to redirect people away from unauthorized migration and toward coming here legally. But it’s not clear how many people who have already been approved for future immigration to the U.S. are crossing without authorization because they can’t wait for their number to come up. Without knowing how many people are going to be invited to apply to begin with, it’s hard to know how well this will accomplish the administration’s stated goals.

What You Need to Know

Under these new processes, certain Form I-130 beneficiaries can be considered for parole on a discretionary, case-by-case, and temporary basis after demonstrating urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit, as well as demonstrating that the beneficiary warrants a favorable exercise of discretion.

Beneficiaries under these processes will generally be paroled into the United States for up to three years and are eligible to apply for employment authorization for the duration of their parole period.

Certain U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident petitioners with an approved Form I-130 must receive an invitation from the Department of State’s National Visa Center to participate in these processes before filing a Form I-134A on behalf of a beneficiary. Invitations have not yet been issued.

It’s possible that implementation of the FRP might happen in conjunction with another newly created administration effort to encourage legal migration: the Safe Mobility Offices the U.S. government has opened in Guatemala, Colombia, and Costa Rica. The Safe Mobility Offices are supposed to offer people the chance to figure out what options they have for legal status in the U.S. (as well as Canada and Spain), thus (in theory) encouraging them to apply legally rather than come to the U.S.-Mexico border. But in practice, only certain people are currently allowed to seek appointments in each of the three offices, and there are many open questions about what their ultimate scope will be.

If you need assistance in filing for a relative, please schedule a call so we can discuss the process with you.

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