Not to be confused with the Humanitarian Parole which USCIS grants in limited circumstances, Port Parole is a unique authority reserved to U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the port of entry.
Not to be confused with the Humanitarian Parole which USCIS grants in limited circumstances, Port Parole is a unique authority reserved to U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the port of entry. This authority is given to CBP by INA §212(d)(5), which allows CBP to “parole [individuals] into the United States temporarily and under such conditions as [DHS] may prescribe only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or a significant public benefit…” This authority is used very sparingly where the applicant for admission is otherwise inadmissible to the United States but presents a compelling emergent reason for needing to come to the United States.
Unlike Humanitarian Parole approved by USCIS, Port Paroles are not approved in advance of the person's entry to the U.S. but a decision is made at the time of the applicant's request for admission. However, applicants or their attorneys may call the port of entry in advance of making the formal request for a Port Parole to outline the basis for the parole request in writing, with any relevant supporting documents. The ports often appreciate this advance notice because it allows time for deliberation while the person is not waiting in the CBP office, and also permits the port to run the request up the chain of command to the relevant CBP Field Office for higher authorization, if needed.
Port parole is wholly discretionary; if it is denied, there is no formal appeals process.
The only form used to document approval of the Port Parole is the I-94 Form issued to the applicant at the time of entry. The fee for the request is $65, but may be waived.
As a practical matter, port parole is typically only available to citizens of Canada or Mexico, or to individuals who are nationals of third countries but are already physically present in Canada or Mexico. Other individuals typically would not be permitted to board a plane without a visa in order to arrive at a port of entry to lodge a port parole request.
Examples of port paroles that we have seen granted are:
- A UK national physically present in Canada was paroled into the U.S. to attend her U.S. citizen fiancé in the hospital after he suffered a severe heart-attack;
- A Canadian citizen who was inadmissible to the US and had applied for a nonimmigrant waiver was given port parole so that he could visit his U.S. citizen fiancée in the hospital following an unexpected and serious medical issue;
- A Canadian citizen E Visa applicant who was awaiting approval of his nonimmigrant waiver and visa issuance was parole into the U.S. to attend the funeral for his U.S. Legal Permanent Resident mother, who had passed away while he was stuck in Canada.
One recent case with an otherwise compelling set of circumstances was denied port parole because the individual was inadmissible to the U.S. due to a conviction of a sex-abuse related offense. Even though the crime took place over 20 years ago, this negative factor tipped the balance out of his favor and CBP stated that it was due to this offense that they were refusing the discretionary parole grant. This denial, and the reasoning for it, provides some insight into how CBP analyzes its decisions on port parole grants. While there is no formal requirement for them to apply a balancing test to these determinations, that appears to be the approach, at least at some ports of entry.
In short, Port Parole is a discretionary authority reserved for CBP with no appeals process; determinations are made on a case by case basis; and this remedy should be used only as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted.