Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program (effective June 8, 2016)

 

Introduction: Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program

Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program (FWVP)In July of 2015, the White House announced plans for to create a special parole program for family members of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) Filipino World War II veterans to come to the United States to “provide support and care to their Filipino veteran family members who are U.S. citizens or LPRs [PDF version (see page 38)].1 Wendy Barlow posted a blog on the announcement at the time [see blog (last paragraph)]. On May 9, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would begin implementing the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole (FWVP) policy on June 8, 2016 [see in English2 or Filipino3]. Notice of the new program was also posted in the Federal Register [81 FR 28097]. The program will allow the family members of U.S. citizen or LPR Filipino WWII veterans who are the beneficiaries of approved family-based immigrant visa petitions be granted parole on a case-by-case basis. In this article, we will review the USCIS news release and the Federal Register update in order to examine the rules of the FWVP.

Authority for the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program

Section 212(d)(5)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) gives the Attorney General discretionary case-by-case authority to parole [see article] an alien into the United States who is applying for admission. The Attorney General may grant parole under the following circumstances:

  • For urgent humanitarian reasons [see article]; or
  • If the Attorney General determines that a grant of parole would yield significant public benefit.

The Federal Register notice states that “USCIS believes that the parole of qualified applicants who establish on a case-by-case basis that they are eligible for consideration under [the FWVP] and merit a favorable exercise of discretion would yield a 'significant public benefit.'” Specifically, the Federal Register notice notes that due to the advanced age of the surviving U.S. citizen and LPR Filipino WWII veterans (USCIS estimates that 26,000 Filipino WWII veterans became U.S. citizens and approximately 2,000-6,000 Filipino WWII veterans are alive in the United States today) “would often address urgent humanitarian concerns.”

The Federal Register notice explains that Filipinos applying for family-based immigrant visas (with the exception of immediate relatives) often face long waiting-periods from the date that the immigrant visa petition is approved to the date that an immigrant visa number becomes available. For example, it notes that as of the January 2016 Visa Bulletin [PDF version], a Filipino with an approved immigrant visa petition in the family-sponsored fourth preference category would not be able to be granted an immigrant visa or adjustment of status unless his or her priority date is before July 22, 1992 (such an applicant would be able to file for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status if his or her priority date was before January 1, 1993 [see blog]).

Eligibility Requirements for the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program

The Federal Register notice lists the requirements for benefiting from the FWVP:

  1. The applicant must be the beneficiary of an approved Form I-360, Petition for Alien Relative (this includes any accompanying or following-to-join spouse or children);
  2. The applicant's qualifying relationship with the petitioning relative must have existed on or before May 9, 2016;
  3. The applicant's petitioning relative is either residing in the United States or was residing in the United States at the time of death;
  4. The applicant is unable to be granted an immigrant visa because his or her priority date is after the Final Action cutoff date on the Department of State's (DOS's) Visa Bulletin;
  5. The applicant's petitioning relatives have established that they are either Filipino World War II veterans or are the surviving spouses of such individuals.

The beneficiaries of immediate relative petitions are not eligible to benefit under the FWVP. This is because the beneficiary of an approved immediate relative petition is eligible to file for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status immediately, removing any need to be paroled into the United States until he or she can apply for adjustment of status.

Furthermore, only the beneficiaries of approved immigrant visa petitions filed by a Filipino WWII veteran or surviving spouse are eligible to benefit under the FWVP. Those with approved immigrant visa petitions in any other category (such as employment-based) are not eligible to benefit from the program.

Beneficiaries of Petitions by Surviving Spouse or Deceased Filipino WWII Veteran

If the petitioning relative is the surviving spouse of a Filipino WWII veteran, the only individuals who will be able to benefit from the FWVP are the child, son, or daughter of the surviving spouse provided that the individual is also the child, son, or daughter of the deceased Filipino WWII veteran.

If the petitioning relative is deceased, those who are otherwise eligible under the rules set forth in the Federal Register notice will be eligible to seek parole on their own behalf in cases where USCIS has reinstated the approval of the Form I-130 for humanitarian reasons. In order to benefit in this way, the self-petitioner must establish that:

  1. He or she had a qualifying family relationship with the deceased Filipino WWII veteran or spouse;
  2. The deceased Filipino WWII veteran had qualifying WWII military service (see next section).

Qualifying Military Service by Filipino WWII Veteran

The Federal Register notice sets forth the requirements for the Filipino veteran's qualifying WWII military service. First, the qualifying WWII military service “must have previously been recognized by the Department of Defense and must be described in section 405 of the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT90), as amended by section 112 of the Department of Justice Appropriations Act, 1998.” These provisions require the individual to fall within one of the following three categories (quoted from the Federal Register notice):

  1. Individuals who are listed on the final roster prepared by the recovered Personnel Division of the [U.S.] Army or those who served honorably in active duty status with the Philippine Army during the [WWII] occupation and liberation of the Philippines;
  2. Individuals who are listed on the final roster prepared by the Guerilla Affairs Division of the [U.S.] Army of those who received recognition as having served honorably in an active duty status within a recognized guerilla unit during the [WWII] occupation and liberation of the Philippines; or
  3. Individuals who served honorably in an active duty status within the Philippine Scouts or within any other component of the [U.S.] Armed Forces in the Far East (other than a component described in causes 1 or 2) at any time during the period beginning September 1, 1939, and ending December 31, 1946.

In adjudicating a parole request under the FWVP, USCIS will review government records to determine whether the Filipino veteran's service was recognized by the Department of Defense (DOD). If such documentation is unavailable, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to allow the petitioner to submit evidence that demonstrates the Filipino veteran had qualifying military service during WWII.

Application Process for Benefits Under the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program

Applications for parole under the FWVP may be filed on or after June 8, 2016. The petition may be filed by the Filipino WWII veteran or surviving spouse on behalf of the beneficiary of the approved I-360 petition. The beneficiary may file for parole on his or her own behalf of the petitioner is deceased.

First, the petitioner or self-applicant must file a completed Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, and a completed Form I-134, Affidavit Support (with fees). These must be filed on behalf of each beneficiary to be considered for parole. The veteran, surviving spouse, or self-applicant must submit documentation demonstrating the Filipino WWII veteran's qualifying military service. The Federal Register notice states that detailed instructions will be included in the Instructions to Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. If the Form I-131 is not properly filed, USCIS will reject the application.

If, during the adjudication of the parole request, an immigrant visa number becomes available to the parole applicant, the applicant will still be able to have his or her parole request processed notwithstanding that an immigrant visa number is available. In the alternative, the applicant may drop his or her parole request and instead pursue immigrant visa processing (with the appropriate fees).

After the forms are properly filed, USCIS or DOS consular officials will interview each individual seeking parole in order to determine whether parole is warranted on a case-by-case basis. Parole applicants may be required to have their biometrics collected. If parole is granted, DOS will issue the appropriate travel documents which will allow the beneficiary to request parole from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a port-of-entry.

Prior to the expiration of the beneficiary's parole, he or she must:

  1. Seek re-parole;
  2. Apply for adjustment of status or depart to apply for processing overseas for an immigrant visa (if eligible);
  3. Depart the United States.

The Federal Register notice advises that “USCIS strongly encourages individuals seeking to request parole under the FWVP policy to make such requests within 5 years from June 8, 2016.” This is because USCIS will assess the policy following the first 4 years of its implementation and evaluate whether “the volume of actual or potential requests would support maintaining the policy…”

Conclusion: Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program

The FWVP policy will offer welcome relief to some of our surviving Filipino WWII veterans and their family members with approved immigrant visa petitions who have been unable to obtain visas due to limited visa numbers for Filipinos in the family-sponsored immigrant visa preference categories. Because the program has not yet commenced, it is not yet entirely clear how USCIS will weigh different factors in determining whether parole is warranted in a specific case. Those seeking to benefit from the program are well-advised to consult with an experienced immigration attorney for an assessment of eligibility and guidance through the application process.

To learn more, please read our blog on the subject [see blog].

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  1. White House, Modernizing & Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century, (Jul. 15, 2015); see also, White House, FACT SHEET, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century, (Jul. 15, 2015) [PDF version (page 2-3)]
  2. USCIS, USCIS to Implement Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program, (May 9, 2016)
  3. USCIS, USCIS, magsasakatuparan ng Programang Parole para sa mga Beteranong Pilipino ng Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig, (May 9, 2016)