The Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program (CAM) offers certain children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras a safe and legal alternative to the often-dangerous trips many undertake to get to the United States. The CAM program began accepting applications just this year, but already qualifying parents are rapidly becoming aware of this available benefit. Applicants approved through CAM receive the status either of refugee, or of parolee. (Details below)
Generally, qualifying parents are immigrants legally present in the United States, and qualifying children include those parents’ minor children who are currently living in either El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras. (Details below) Some parents still living in Central America may also qualify to apply for CAM if they are legally married to the qualifying parent living in the U.S. (Details below) It is the parent legally living in the U.S. who begins this process, and applies on behalf of his or her son or daughter living in Central America, who is referred to as the “qualifying child.”
The following people may qualify for CAM:
An individual who is at least 18 and who is lawfully present in the United States under one of the following categories:
- Permanent Resident Status,
- Temporary Protected Status,
- Parolee*, see below
- Deferred Action,* see below
- Deferred Enforced Departure, or
- Withholding of Removal
* Parole and Deferred Action
Parolees and people here under deferred action must have been issued parole or deferred action at least one full year before applying for CAM.
Parent other than the Qualifying Parent
The other parent of the qualifying child—the spouse of the parent who applies for his son or daughter from within the United States—may be included if:
- He/she lives in the same household and lives off of the same finances as the qualifying child.
- He/she is legally married to the qualifying parent at the time the qualifying parent applies for CAM, and
- He/she is still legally married to the qualifying parent when applications for Refugee or Parole status are granted
The qualifying child in El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras must be:
- The child of the qualifying parent (Child may be biological, step, or adopted)
- Under 21;
- A national of El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras; and
- Currently living in his or her country of nationality.
Other Eligible Family Members
Other eligible family members who may have access include:
I. Unmarried children (under 21) of the qualifying child
- Example: You live legally in the United States, and have an unmarried 19-yr. old daughter—your daughter lives in Guatemala and has a 2-yr. old son, your grandson. Your grandson may be eligible.
II. Unmarried children (under 21) of the qualifying in-country parent
- Example: You live legally in the United States, and your spouse still lives in El Salvador. Your spouse has a 10-yr. old daughter from a previous relationship—this daughter, then, is your stepdaughter. Your stepdaughter may be eligible.
“Refugee” is a status that is available to people who qualify as having special humanitarian needs for coming to the United States. A specially trained USCIS officer determines who qualifies as a refugee by conducting an interview with each applicant, separately.
Every individual seeking to come to the United States via CAM has to prove they qualify for refugee status in order to receive it. This means that even if the in-country qualifying child qualifies as a Refugee, the in-country “Other Parent” also has to qualify on his or her own, in order to be granted refugee status.
If a CAM applicant does not qualify as a refugee, USCIS will consider whether they qualify to enter the United States as a parolee.
Parole is not in itself a lawful immigration status; however, it does allow an individual to be lawfully present in the U.S. temporarily and to apply for work authorization. Parole allows individuals who may be otherwise inadmissible to come to the U.S. for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.
An applicant found eligible for parole has to fund the following by himself:
- Medical Clearance and Costs: Parole applicants are responsible for the cost of medical exams and clearance.
- Travel Arrangements and Costs: Parole applicants are responsible for the cost of the flight to the United States.
What To Expect
DNA relationship testing must occur between the qualifying parent in the U.S. and his/her biological children for whom the parent files. The parent in the U.S. will pay the initial costs of DNA testing. The parent will be reimbursed for testing costs if testing shows that all claimed relationships are confirmed. If the results do not confirm the claimed relationships, the parent will not be reimbursed.
Immigration attorney Nathan Bogart of the Joyce Law Firm, would be pleased to assist you in applying for your minor child and other eligible family members through the benefits of CAM.