AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 14121851 (posted Dec. 18, 2014)
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
[CIS No. 2548–14; DHS Docket No. USCIS–2014–0013]
AGENCY: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS.
SUMMARY: This notice announces the implementation of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) Program. Under this program, USCIS offers certain Haitian beneficiaries of family-based immigrant petitions approved on or before December 18, 2014 an opportunity to receive a discretionary grant of parole to enter the
United States up to approximately two years before their immigrant visas become available, rather than remain in Haiti awaiting availability of their immigrant visas. The program is intended to expedite family reunification through safe, legal, and orderly channels of migration to the United States, increase existing avenues for legal migration from Haiti, and help Haiti continue to recover from the devastation and damage suffered in the January 12, 2010 earthquake.
• The HFRP Program will only be available to Haitian beneficiaries of family-based immigrant petitions approved on or before December 18, 2014.
• On or after February 2, 2015, the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) will begin sending to eligible petitioners written invitations to apply to the HFRP Program.
I. Background of the HFRP Program
The rebuilding and development of a safe and economically strong Haiti is a priority for the United States. While progress has been made since the 2010 earthquake that devastated parts of the country, Haiti continues to face significant development challenges. Reconstruction and development in Haiti will continue for many years.
With the exception of ‘‘immediate relatives’’ of U.S. citizens (USCs) (i.e., parent, spouse and unmarried child(ren) under 21 years of age), see Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sec. 201(b)(2)(A)(i), 8 U.S.C. 1151(b)(2)(A)(i), the number of family-based immigrant visas that are available in any given year is limited by statute. See INA secs. 201(c), 202(a) & 203, 8 U.S.C. 1151(c), 1152(a) & 1153. These statutory limits have resulted in long waiting periods before family members remaining in Haiti may join the U.S.C. and lawful permanent resident (LPR) family members in the United States who petitioned for them.
Under the HFRP Program, USCIS will exercise its discretionary parole authority 2 to permit certain eligible Haitians in Haiti to join their family members in the United States up to approximately two years before their immigrant visas become available, thereby promoting family unity. By expanding existing legal means for Haitians to immigrate, the HFRP Program serves a significant public benefit by promoting safe, legal, and orderly migration to the United States.
Furthermore, it supports U.S. goals for Haiti’s long-term reconstruction and development. Once paroled into the United States, HFRP Program beneficiaries will be eligible to apply for employment authorization, and those who are able to work may contribute to Haiti’s post-earthquake reconstruction and development through remittances. Whether to parole a particular alien remains, however, a case-by-case, discretionary determination.
II. Participation in the HFRP Program and Application Process
USCIS offers participation in the HFRP Program to eligible Haitians: (1) In Haiti; (2) who are the beneficiaries (including any accompanying or following-to-join spouse and children) of Forms I–130, Petition for Alien Relative, that were approved on or before the date of publication of this notice; (3) whose immigrant visas are not available, but are expected to become available within approximately 18 to 30 months; and (4) whose petitioning relatives in the United States have received a written invitation to apply for the HFRP Program on their behalf from the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC).
The NVC will issue a written invitation to petitioners of approved Forms I–130 based upon the date when the immigrant visas for their beneficiary relatives are expected to become available. Each year the NVC will identify approved Forms I–130 whose filing dates (priority dates) are expected to become current in approximately the next 18 to 30 months, meaning that the immigrant visas for those cases are expected to become available within that timeframe. The NVC will prioritize the issuance of invitations to petitioners within that group, beginning with the oldest Form I–130 filing date and working forward to the most recent filing date. The number of HFRP Program invitations may be limited annually based on U.S. Government operational capacity in Haiti and the availability of U.S. Government resources to aid program beneficiaries. Initially, the U.S. Government will seek to interview approximately 5,000 HFRP Program beneficiaries in Haiti per year. Petitioners will be given a deadline by which they must apply to have their beneficiary relatives considered for parole under the program. Participation in the HFRP Program is voluntary.
On or after February 2, 2015, eligible U.S.-based U.S.C. and LPR petitioners with approved Forms I–130 filed on behalf of a beneficiary relative in Haiti for whom a visa is not available but expected to become available within approximately 18 to 30 months, will receive a written notice from the NVC regarding the beneficiary’s eligibility to participate in the HFRP Program and the procedures for requesting parole, if desired. The notice will instruct the recipient on how to file a completed Form I–131, Application for Travel Document, and submit the required fee(s) or fee waiver request to apply for parole under the HFRP Program on behalf of each beneficiary. USCIS will reject a request for parole under the HFRP Program that is not submitted as instructed, without the required completed form, or without the fee(s) or a request for a fee waiver.
USCIS or Department of State consular officers will interview qualified beneficiaries in Port au Prince, Haiti, to verify their eligibility for the program. Beneficiaries may also have their biometrics collected. If USCIS exercises its discretion to grant parole under the HFRP Program, USCIS or the Department of State will issue the necessary travel documents to the beneficiary in Haiti. These travel documents will enable the beneficiary to travel to the United States and seek
parole from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port-of-entry to join his or her family. A beneficiary who is paroled into the United States would then be eligible to apply to adjust status to that of lawful permanent resident once the beneficiary’s immigrant visa becomes available.
Participation in the HFRP Program is not available to aliens who qualify as ‘‘immediate relatives’’ under section 201(b)(2)(A)(i) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1151(b)(2)(A)(i). Such aliens may seek immigrant visas for travel to the United States immediately upon the approval of immigrant visa petitions filed on their behalf. If, however, an immigrant visa becomes available for a beneficiary who is not an ‘‘immediate relative’’ while the Form I–131 is pending, the beneficiary will still be able to complete the parole process, if desired. Alternatively, the beneficiary can choose to pursue immigrant visa processing, which will require payment of associated fees, but will enable the individual to apply for admission to the United States as an immigrant, if found eligible by the Department of State for the visa and admissible by CBP at the port of entry.