What is the Venezuelan Parole Program?
This month, the United States announced a program which will allow certain Venezuelan nationals a pathway to request permission to travel to the United States and seek parole for up to two years. In the U.S. immigration context, “parole” provides temporary permission to be in the United States. With valid parole, a noncitizen can also apply for and receive work authorization.
How Will the Process Work?
The Venezuelan parole program’s application process is very similar to that of the “Uniting for Ukraine” program that was announced earlier this year. First, a U.S.-based sponsor must submit a Form I-134 along with financial and identity documents. This form is used to demonstrate that the U.S. sponsor is willing and able to provide financial and practical support to the “beneficiary” (the potential parolee). It also allows the Department of Homeland Security to screen the sponsor before allowing the application to move forward. Each individual beneficiary needs their own I-134, but a single sponsor could submit multiple I-134s if they wished to help multiple people obtain parole.
After an I-134 is reviewed and deemed complete, then the beneficiary is emailed instructions to complete next steps – which include confirming their biographic information, attesting that they meet certain health/vaccination requirements, and providing a photo for identification purposes. The beneficiary then submits their information to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for review.
Customs and Border Protection l officials review the applications and conduct the necessary security and background checks. Based on their review, the CBP officers decide if they will issue travel documents to beneficiaries or not. If CBP denies a travel document request, there is no possibility to appeal this denial. If a travel document request is approved, then the beneficiary will have a limited travel window (typically 90 days) to travel by commercial airline to the United States.
Approval of the travel document is not a final approval of the parole. The decision to grant parole is made at the port of entry when the beneficiary presents for inspection at customs. If the inspecting official approves parole, they will allow the beneficiary a period of parole of up to two years.
Once inside the United States as a parolee, the beneficiary can submit an I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. In certain instances, they might also be able to request permits to allow them to travel internationally and ask to be paroled back into the United States. However, in general, if a parolee leaves the United States without that advance permission, their parole is automatically terminated.
Who Can Benefit?
As the name suggests, the Venezuelan parole program benefits Venezuelan nationals, as well as their accompanying immediate family members (defined as spouses, common law partners, or unmarried children under twenty-one). However, many Venezuelans are excluded from the program. For example, those with permanent residence in another country, dual nationality, or refugee status abroad are not able to seek parole on their own. They are only able to be considered for the program if they are traveling with their immediate family member Venezuelan relative who does not have any of those non-Venezuelan statuses. Similarly, children under the age of 18 are only permitted to seek parole under the program if they are traveling with their parent or legal guardian. (Unaccompanied children may be able to seek other remedies or traditional parole, but they cannot use this specific process.) Furthermore, beneficiaries must be outside the United States to begin with; they must possess a passport valid for international travel; they must be able to arrange their own travel by commercial airline to the United States; they must meet vaccination requirements; and they must clear security screening.
On top of all these specifications, the program explicitly excludes those who break certain U.S. immigration laws. Anyone who has been ordered removed from the United States in the last five years will not qualify. Anyone who is subject to an entry ban to the U.S. based on a prior removal order will not qualify. Anyone who crosses into the United States outside of an official port of entry after October 19, 2022 will not qualify. The program even punishes those who break other country’s immigration laws – anyone who crosses the Mexican or Panamanian borders after October 19, 2022 will not qualify.
Who Can Be a Sponsor?
A variety of immigration status can qualify a person to be a sponsor or “supporter” for a Venezuelan parole beneficiary. Sponsors could be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents, TPS-holders, asylees (it seems likely that asylum must actually have been granted; having an asylum application pending does not seem to be enough), parolees, or recipients of deferred action or Deferred Enforcement Departure. While a sponsor has to be an individual person, a person can sign on behalf of an organization or entity. Sponsors must be able to demonstrate that they are willing and able to provide financial and practical support for each beneficiary for the duration of the parole, and they must pass security and background checks.
How Many People Will be Paroled?
Currently, the Venezuelan parole program is capped at 24,000 beneficiaries. The application process opened up on October 18, 2022, and it is set to close once 24,000 people have been granted the Venezuelan parole. While the Secretary of Homeland Security could potentially expand the program in the future, for now, it seems recommendable for potential sponsors to file I-134s as soon as they are able since the program could fill up quickly.
If you or a relative might be able to sponsor or benefit from the newly announced Venezuelan parole program and have questions, please set up a consultation with the MMH Team: 312-427-6163.