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Immigration Law Associates, PC

USCIS Program Permits Lawfully Present Parents to Request Refugee Status for Minor Children Residing in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras

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The Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently established a new program to provide a safe and legal route for children living in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to travel to the United States. Through the Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee/Parole Program, qualifying parents who are lawfully present in the United States now have access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for their children who meet certain criteria. The CAM program started accepting applications on December 1, 2014.

To qualify, a child must be unmarried, under the age of 21, and residing in El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras as a national. The parent must be a biological, step, or legally adopted parent in compliance with the criteria in section 101(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In addition, the parent must be at least 18 years old and lawfully present in the United States. Only the following categories qualify: permanent resident status; temporary protected status; parolee (for a minimum of one year); deferred action (for a minimum of one year); deferred enforced departure; or withholding of removal. Biological parents must establish their biological relationship with their children through DNA testing.

The qualifying child also must meet the definition of a refugee in section 101(a)(42) of the INA. In general, refugee status may be available to people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted in their country of nationality, or last country of habitual residence for persons lacking a country of nationality, on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Applicants who are found ineligible for refugee status may be considered for parole into the United States.

Children of qualifying children also may eligible as derivative beneficiaries. In addition, a parent of a qualifying child may be eligible if the parent is part of the same household and economic unit as the child and is legally married to the qualifying parent. The parent outside the United States must establish an independent claim for refugee status.

To apply for the program, qualifying parents must file a Form DS-7699.

The form is available and may be completed only through a designated resettlement agency. For more information on the program and a list of designated resettlement agencies, visit the Department of State’s Refugee Processing Center’s website.

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