With Mother's Day having just taken place, and Father's Day right around the corner, it's only fitting that we talk about one of the hardest parts about immigration - family separation.
While our society highlights things like the American Dream, the reality for many people upon immigrating to the United States is that they don't see their immediate family members for years and years. This often unfairly affects certain populations of non-U.S. citizens - international students, people from countries that cannot easily get a visitor visa to the U.S., and the undocumented population.
In an effort to combat a portion of that family separation, USCIS has recently announced a new initiative - a Family Reunification Parole Process - that would enable certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who have an approved family-based petition (Form I-130) to wait for an immigrant visa in the United States with their family member on a temporary parole status. This is phenomenal news, but it is very important to note that the announcement only applies to nationals of Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, and Cuba.
Why Those Certain Countries?
The Biden Administration has not stated why the new process will only be available to nationals of Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, and Cuba, but U.S. State Department data shows that out of roughly 284,000 Latin American family sponsorship petitions, 78,000 of those were filed for Salvadorans, 57,000 for Hondurans, 58,000 for Guatemalans, and 56,000 for Colombians.
How Will the Parole Process Work?
To be considered for family reunification parole, the beneficiary must have an approved Form I-130 petition, be vetted, and have received an invitation from the State Department's National Visa Center.
Invitations have not been issued yet, and the details for this process are sparse. USCIS said it will provide more information at this page in mid-June of 2023.
I Am Not from One of Those Countries, Can I Apply for Family-Based Parole?
There has not been any announcement or indication by the Biden Administration that the new family reunification parole will be extended to nationals of other countries, but we will certainly keep you updated if such an announcement is made.
There have been mixed results from the promises that President Biden made about his Administration's commitment to immigration. In the beginning of his presidency he announced broad immigration plans, including his proposed U.S. Citizenship Act, that among other things would reduce family visa wait times. As of May 2023, the wait time for certain family-based visas is up to 15 years.
Under the current immigration system, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can apply for certain immediate family members to join them in the United States by filing a Form I-130. Those forms are usually approved within one year. But the hangup comes in that the family member then has to wait until a green card is available for them, which can take years and years. Only a certain number of green cards are allotted per year, per country, and the wait for those available is backlogged for several years, with the amount of time depending on what familial relationship the beneficiary has to the applicant.
To put it into perspective, AP News shared the example that “Under the current wait time, a father who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder and is trying to bring over his wife and baby from a country like Pakistan might not be reunited with them until the child is entering kindergarten.”
If you have questions about applying for an immigration petition please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.