WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), joined a group of senate colleagues, led by Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), in sending a letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas and USCIS Director Jaddou urging them to implement a blanket waiver on fees for Afghans applying for humanitarian parole to come to the United States. The letter also requests that the agencies issue guidance to provide clarity on the current status of these types of applications.
Afghans applying for humanitarian parole from outside of the United States must currently pay $575 to have their application processed by the Department of Homeland Security. For many Afghans applying for this status, these costs are a prohibitive barrier in the application process.
“Given the extreme financial hardship and immediate danger facing Afghans fleeing to the United States, we urge you to implement a blanket waiver on fees for Afghans and their families when they apply for humanitarian parole into the United States, and we ask that you issue guidance for applicants and attorneys who are filing for this status,” said the Senators.
“The burden of application fees is weighing heavily on communities here in the United States. Families and friends of Afghans who are trying to apply for humanitarian parole are shouldering payments and are being forced to make difficult financial decisions,” the Senators continued. The letter also asks questions related to the number of Afghans who have applied for parole and how many have been granted waivers.
In addition to Senators Cardin, Padilla and Blumenthal, the letter was also signed by Senators Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).
Full text of the letter is available HERE and below:
Dear Secretary Mayorkas and Director Jaddou:
Given the extreme financial hardship and immediate danger facing Afghans fleeing to the United States, we urge you to implement a blanket waiver on fees for Afghans and their families when they apply for humanitarian parole into the United States, and we ask that you issue guidance for applicants and attorneys who are applying for this status.
It is important to note that individuals processed as refugees are not subject to any fees, and we believe the same standard should apply to parolees from Afghanistan. However, the current fee facing Afghans who apply for humanitarian parole is $575 per applicant. Under federal regulations, the Director of USCIS holds the authority to waive fees under 8 CFR 103.7(d) which states:
“the Director of USCIS may approve and suspend exemptions from any fee required by paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section or provide that the fee may be waived for a case or specific class of cases that is not otherwise provided in this section, if the Director determines that such action would be in the public interest and the action is consistent with other applicable law.”
While we understand that an application for a waiver can be filed on an individual basis through an I-912 form, many applicants are justifiably concerned the additional filing and adjudication time will slow down the processing time and require paperwork they do not have in order to show financial hardship. In addition, if parole is authorized, a second fee for the DS-160 form of $160 must also be paid to the Department of State for a nonimmigrant visa. This means each individual attempting to be considered for humanitarian parole must pay $735 in fees to reach safety.
The burden of application fees is weighing heavily on communities here in the United States. Families and friends of Afghans who are trying to apply for humanitarian parole are shouldering payments and are being forced to make difficult financial decisions. Some have even appealed to local governments to help them cover the costs of these fees.
For these reasons, we urge you to implement a blanket waiver on fees for humanitarian parolees from Afghanistan and to expedite their applications. We also urge you to issue clear guidance so that applicants and attorneys can understand what options are available to them and if they qualify for humanitarian parole and a waiver.
In addition, we ask that you provide answers to the following questions no later than October 11, 2021:
1. How many Afghan nationals have applied for humanitarian parole since August 1, 2021?
2. How many humanitarian parole applications have been approved since August 1, 2021?
3. How many requests for fee waivers were made by Afghan nationals applying for humanitarian parole since August 1, 2021?
4. Please provide the status of those fee waiver requests including whether they have been granted, denied, or are pending review.
5. Does USCIS plan to issue guidance on the fees associated with humanitarian parole?
6. Has USCIS considered implementing a blanket fee waiver for Afghan humanitarian parole requests? If so, what, if any barriers, are preventing USCIS from engaging in immediate implementation?
Thank you for your attention to this matter.