Refugee / Parole Program for Minors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
Contributor: Van T. Doan
In recent years, children in Latin America seeking to escape dire conditions in their home countries have undertaken a difficult and dangerous journey to the United States. In order to create a safer option, in December of 2014, the United States is establishing a program that will allow some of these children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to be granted refugee status under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
Eligibility for Refugee Status
Under this program, unmarried children under the age of 21 who have a parent or parents who are lawfully present in the United States may qualify for refugee status. The children must live in El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, and must complete an interview with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and obtain a medical clearance before approval to travel to the United States as a refugee.
If only one parent is lawfully present in the United States, but the other resides in the home country with the child, the second parent may be added to the child's petition and be considered for refugee status under certain circumstances.
Application Process for Refugee Status
The application process must be initiated in the United States by the lawful resident parent. The parent must file Department of State form DS-7699 requesting a refugee resettlement interview for the child. The form must be completed with the assistance of a Department of State-funded resettlement agency. Form DS-7699 will not be available on the Department of State website; the Department of State will provide information on how to contact an appropriate agency to initiate an application.
Once form DS-7699 has been completed and filed, the child will be contacted in his or her home country and assisted through the process by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). IOM manages the U.S. Resettlement Support Center (RSC) in Latin America. IOM personnel will directly contact each child for whom an a DS-7699 has been filed. The relationship between the parent in the United States and the child will be confirmed by DNA evidence, after which the DHS interview will be conducted.
If the child is deemed eligible and obtains medical clearance, IOM will arrange travel to the United States, including a loan for the cost of travel. The parent present in the United States must sign a document promising to repay travel costs. Upon arrival in the United States, the child will be assigned to a resettlement agency to help him or her get established, including help with registration for school.
What Happens if Refugee Status is Denied?
If an applicant is denied refugee status by the Department of Homeland Security, he or she may still qualify for parole. Parole is a mechanism by which someone who cannot otherwise be admitted to the United States is allowed entry for urgent humanitarian reasons or a significant public benefit. Parole is a temporary status and does not confer any permanent immigration status on the parolee.
A person may be eligible for parole if DHS finds that he or she is at risk of harm; clears all background vetting; there is no derogatory information about the individual; and someone has committed to support the person financially while he or she is in the United States.The parent lawfully present in the United States must complete and submit Form I-134 (Affidavit of Support).
Children and parents who are being considered for parole must arrange and pay for their own medical clearance and travel; they are not eligible for a travel loan, as refugees are. Parolees are not eligible for medical and other benefits when they arrive in the United States, but may apply for employment authorization or register in school.
If you would like to discuss whether your child who lives in El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala may qualify for refugee status or parole, contact Howard County, MD immigration lawyer Van T. Doan.