The term “parole” is most often used in the criminal law context and refers to a prisoner’s conditional release from incarceration. To immigrant families, however, “parole” has a very different meaning: a humanitarian opportunity for certain immigrants who do not meet the technical requirements for a visa or are otherwise inadmissible to enter the United States. Historically, there have been several special parole programs administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and its predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). One such program, the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) Program, created in 2007, allows certain Cuban citizens residing in Cuba to be paroled into the United States.
What is the CFRP Program?
Cuban immigrants living in the United States as lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens can petition for relatives in Cuba to immigrate to the United States as lawful permanent residents. Generally, that means that the relative in Cuba must wait in Cuba until their immigrant visa becomes available. An immigrant visa become available when the “priority date” is current, which can take many years due to backlogs. Under CFRP, rather than remain in Cuba until their immigrant visas become available, the petitioning relative in the United States may apply for their relatives in Cuba to be paroled into the United States while they wait for permanent resident status. Once in the United States, CFRP Program beneficiaries can apply for work authorization while they wait to apply for lawful permanent resident status. Although no form or fee was initially required for the CFRP Program, as of February 17, 2015, an Application for Travel Document (Form I-131) and payment of its associated fee (or approval of a fee waiver request) is required from individuals applying for parole on behalf of a relative in Cuba.
Eligibility for CFRP
In order to be eligible for CFRP, you must first have an approved Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for a Cuban family member. In legal terms, that makes you the “petitioner” and your relative the “beneficiary.” Additional requirements include:
- You must be either a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR);
- You must have received a written invitation to apply to the CFRP Program from the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC);
- An immigrant visa cannot yet be available for your relative; and
- Your relative must be a Cuban national residing in Cuba.
Immediate family members of immigrants already in the United States (spouses of U.S. citizens, unmarried children under age 21 of U.S. citizens, and parents of U.S. citizens over age 21) are not eligible for CFRP because their immigrant visas are immediately available once their Form I-130 is approved.
The invitation letter from the NVC will specify where and how the parole application should be filed. You must not submit any application materials to USCIS before first receiving the invitation letter from the NVC or the application will be rejected and no reimbursement of the filing fee will be paid. USCIS will also reject CFRP applications submitted on or after February 17, 2015, that do not include the completed Form I-131 and associated fee or a fee waiver request.
If the parole application appears to be approvable, it is forwarded to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, and U.S. authorities will interview the beneficiary. Fingerprints and photos may also be required. Parole is not automatic and can be denied for reasons including failure to pass medical examinations or security background checks. If parole is granted, it does not confer any legal immigration status, but does allow a person to be lawfully enter and be present in the United States and to apply for work authorization. A Cuban paroled into the United States under the CFRP Program meets the definition of a Cuban entrant, and the 1966 Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act permits Cubans paroled into the United States to apply for lawful permanent residence after being present in the United States for one year.
It is important to be aware that there are many scams out there about this program. Be cautious of fake websites that seek to imitate USCIS.gov (USCIS.com and USCIS.org are a common trap), fraudulent officials who sell forms that are available for free online, individuals who claim that they have special connections and can help for a fee, and phone calls in which someone posing as a USCIS official tells you that you have to pay a fee to prevent denial of your application. It is also wise to proceed carefully with people who have been through the process and offer advice. Although they may be well-intentioned, they may also be misguided, and every case has unique circumstances. The only individuals who are capable of providing proper assistance are legal attorneys and accredited representatives who have been approved under the Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals.
We Can Help
USCIS paperwork and the CFRP Program can be difficult to navigate. If you or someone you love wants to participate in the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, please give CF Abogados a call today at 859-838-1413 (Hablamos Español) or use our online consultation form. We are dedicated Lexington, KY immigration lawyers who will listen to the facts of your case, help you determine eligibility and help you with the application process.