In the vast majority of cases, an individual will require a visa to enter the United States, unless he or she is from a country that is visa exempt or part of the Visa Waiver program. But did you know that in limited cases and under very extraordinary circumstances, a person may be paroled into the country without a visa? Humanitarian Parole is special permission given by USCIS to allow someone who might otherwise not be allowed to enter the US, an opportunity to come here for a specific period of time due to a compelling or extraordinary circumstance. The form is filed on Form I-131, and must address what urgent humanitarian circumstances or situation warrants a grant of parole. Humanitarian Parole was a hot topic last January of 2010 when New Jersey's own Frank Lautenberg urged the Department of Homeland Security to extend parole to Haitian orphans affected by the earthquake who had family members in the US willing to look after them.
It is important to note that humanitarian parole is not a visa and does not confer any particular immigration status on the person. However, it does allow a person to enter the US temporarily if there is a significant public benefit or some type of compelling humanitarian reason. Besides the Haitian earthquake situation, a medical life-saving emergency might constitute an another appropriate reason to apply if someone has been previously denied a visitor's visa but needs to come to the US to receive a critical medical treatment or operation that he or she would not receive in his or her home country. Humanitarian Parole is certainly not for everyone and would generally not apply to most people's situations; however, when all is lost and an individual desperately needs to come to the US to address a compelling and extraordinary situation, and there are sympathetic humanitarian factors involved, it is worth investigating.