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USCIS rejects over 90% of Afghan humanitarian parole applications

Despite thousands of applications from Afghans seeking humanitarian parole in the United States, only a fraction of applications are approved.

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    What is Humanitarian Parole?

    In the United States, humanitarian parole is used to allow foreign nationals entry into the country despite not having any other valid visa. Foreign nationals who are in the U.S. on humanitarian parole were permitted to enter the country for humanitarian reasons (fleeing violence, catastrophe, etc) or for significant public benefit.

    In the past, the U.S. government has used the parole authority to resettle refugees affected by crises in their home countries. Recently the Biden administration has used parole to admit some asylum-seekers and unaccompanied minors at the southern border, Haitian and Cuban nationals looking to reunite with family members in the United States, and thousands of Ukrainians and Afghans fleeing violent takeovers in their home countries.

    Afghanistan aid

    Why is USCIS Rejecting Afghan Parole Applications?

    When it comes to humanitarian parole applications from Afghanistan, the United States government maintains a stricter standard of parole eligibility for Afghans who were not evacuated by the U.S. government in the summer of 2021. This means that only certain Afghan applicants will be granted parole if they are one of the following:

    • Immediate family members of U.S. citizens or residents
    • Former Kabul Embassy staff
    • Special Immigrant Visa applicants
    • Immediate family members of Afghan nationals who were relocated to the U.S. in 2021
    • Afghans who face ‘serious, targeted harm’ due to their involvement with U.S. forces

    Since July 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has received over 46,000 humanitarian parole applications from Afghans. Of this number, only 5,000 requests have been fully adjudicated due to the USCIS being overwhelmed by the number of applications received.  As of June 2nd, 2022, only 297 parole requests were approved, leaving a 90% rejection rate.

    Why are Ukrainian refugees subject to the same scrutiny?

    When Russia invaded Ukraine, the Biden administration granted temporary parole for Ukrainian nationals fleeing violence in their home country. However, Ukrainian nationals were not subject to the same scrutinizing parole eligibility standards that other nationals were subjected to.

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) argues the eligibility criteria differ between the two nationalities due to the circumstances of each country’s situation. For example, most Afghan parole applicants are unable to attend required immigration interviews due to the absence of a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in Afghanistan. Therefore, in order for the application to be complete, Afghans will need to travel to another country where there is a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and apply there. For many Afghan refugees, this is not a possibility whereas Ukrainian nationals are more able to travel to neighboring countries where they can apply for parole.

    In addition, some Ukrainian nationals applying for parole are not required to undergo interviews before being admitted to the United States on humanitarian parole. Ukrainian nationals are also able to apply for private sponsorship programs through Uniting for Ukraine which is processed electronically in as little as a few weeks or days.

    In response to the criticism regarding the high rejection rate and slow processing of Afghan parole applications, the DHS has reiterated that parole is not a formal U.S. refugee program. Therefore, Ukrainians seeking temporary safe haven will more likely be granted parole as opposed to Afghan applicants who are seeking permanent resettlement in the United States.

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