In July 2023, USCIS added a new question to Form I-134A, the online Declaration of Financial Support used to apply for sponsorship through the Uniting for Ukraine program (as well as other parole programs). The new question asks the supporter (sponsor) to write a response to the following statement:
“A grant of parole is a discretionary determination granted on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. Please explain why a favorable exercise of discretion is merited for this individual.“
The supporter must provide a narrative response (of a minimum word count) to this question before submitting the application.
What does this require of the supporter, and what does it mean for the beneficiary?
USCIS has stated that the primary purpose of Form I-134A Declaration of Financial Support is to screen potential supporters to make sure they meet the eligibility criteria and are able to financially support the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) stated. Of the four new narrative questions added in the past year, three of the questions pertain to the sponsor’s intentions and attestations with respect to the beneficiary:
- “You are responsible for receiving, maintaining, and supporting the beneficiary for the duration of their temporary stay in the United States. Describe the resources you plan to use or provide to ensure the beneficiary has adequate financial support to cover their basic living needs.”
- “You are responsible for ensuring the beneficiary has safe and appropriate housing for the duration of their parole in the United States. Describe how you will ensure that the beneficiary’s housing needs are met, including where the beneficiary will reside during their temporary stay in the United States, if known.”
- “You are responsible for assisting the beneficiary’s access to available services and benefits such as learning English, securing employment opportunities once authorized to work, enrolling children in school, and helping to enroll for benefits for which they are eligible. Describe what steps you plan to take as part of these responsibilities.”
USCIS has indicated that its role in the process is to “confirm” the supporter, which means reviewing the supporter’s biographical, financial, and other documentary evidence to make sure the supporter meets the legal requirements of sponsorship under the Uniting for Ukraine program. After the supporter has been confirmed, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) takes over to conduct biographic and biometric security screening of each beneficiary named in the supporter’s application.
At the same time, Form I-134A requires a supporter to input certain biographical and other information about the beneficiary in order to complete the application. USCIS indicates on the application that the information about both the supporter and the beneficiary may shared with other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bureaus and external government agencies.
In light of this, how should supporters answer the new question that expressly asks why the named beneficiary should be paroled through Uniting for Ukraine?
First, keep in mind that there is no intrinsically right or wrong answer. There is no “magic” word or phrase that will guarantee approval of a supporter’s application. Nor is there likely to be a specific word or phrase that automatically disqualifies an application on its own.
Second, this is not a “one size fits all” answer. What makes sense for one beneficiary’s situation may not make sense for another beneficiary’s situation. Accordingly, supporters must determine the factors that “merit” humanitarian parole for each beneficiary they wish to sponsor.
Third, it is important to note that CBP — not USCIS — is responsible for making the decision to parole (or not to parole) an individual. This means that CBP makes the final determination as to whether the beneficiary meets the legal requirements for humanitarian parole, the eligibility requirements for Uniting for Ukraine, the health and safety requirements for entering into the United States, and the immigration procedures that CBP is charged with enforcing. Even if the supporter is confirmed and the beneficiary is issued a travel authorization, there remains a possibility that CBP will not grant humanitarian parole to that beneficiary when they try to enter the United States.
With that in mind, what types of factors might be considered in assessing whether humanitarian parole is “merited” for the named beneficiary?
Neither USCIS nor CBP has offered insights on how the new question on Form I-134A will be evaluated or how much weight it will be given in the supporter’s overall application. With that said, USCIS has provided a useful suggestion to potential sponsors to help them review some of the factors that are considered when determining an applicant’s request for humanitarian parole in general. USCIS publishes guidance illustrating various reasons for requesting humanitarian parole, based on the traditional use of this humanitarian protection to those in urgent situations who seek entry into the United States. These reasons are described in more detail on the USCIS webpage, “Guidance on Evidence for Certain Types of Humanitarian or Significant Public Benefit Parole Requests,” which can be found here:
USCIS has instructed that supporters applying for sponsorship through a parole program may consult this guidance to help them understand which factors and circumstances may warrant a grant of humanitarian parole. This guidance offers a helpful place to start to determine which reasons may apply to the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) they are considering sponsoring.
What are some potential factors that sponsors might include about the beneficiary’s situation?
It may be helpful to highlight some compelling facts about the beneficiary’s unique circumstances that convey that beneficiary’s urgency to travel to the United States. These could include such factors as:
- the beneficiary’s need to reunite with family or close friends in the United States after suffering a traumatic event(s)
- the beneficiary’s need to get help from family or close friends in the United States to care for themselves, their children, or their elderly parents
- destruction of the beneficiary’s home, or loss of access to safe shelter and necessities in Ukraine
- the beneficiary’s elevated risk of physical harm by virtue of their personal characteristics if they remain in Ukraine
- the beneficiary’s need to find safety for their children in the United States
- the beneficiary’s need to access certain services or care for themselves or their children that can be more effectively accessed in the United States, such as special care or education for certain disabilities
- the beneficiary’s need to treat serious health issues in their family that can be more effectively accessed in the United States
Please note that not all beneficiaries will have the situations listed above. These are only some of the situations that could support a grant of humanitarian parole. There may be a variety of other compelling justifications that apply to certain beneficiaries based on their individual circumstances.
Is there any sample language that supporters can use?
We do not have a sample answer to the new question. Moreover, USCIS has advised against writing or sharing with others a sample response or sample language to this question on Form I-134A. If multiple supporter applications are found to contain identical language to the same question, it raises the risk that those applications could be flagged as potentially fraudulent by the USCIS system. This could unintentionally delay an application’s processing time and even potentially result in a denial.
There is also a policy reason for writing a unique response for each application. Humanitarian parole is supposed to be granted to each individual on a case-by-case basis, so writing a unique response in each application helps DHS avoid the appearance of abusing its discretion in offering this humanitarian protection to numerous individuals. Thus, avoiding generic responses and duplication of answers from sponsor to sponsor helps minimize doubts about the sponsor’s authenticity and the beneficiary’s genuine need to seek protection in the United States through humanitarian parole.
Where can I find more information?
To learn more about sponsorship through Uniting for Ukraine, read the Welcome.US Sponsor FAQs for Ukrainians here:
For instructions on completing the supporter application for Uniting for Ukraine, read the Welcome.US Guide to the Humanitarian Parole Application for Uniting for Ukraine.
For more information on the Uniting for Ukraine program, visit the USCIS Uniting for Ukraine page and the Frequently Asked Questions about Uniting for Ukraine.