The Biden administration’s new process for Haitian and other immigrants for temporary work requires financial sponsorship and encourages transitional support.
Thousands of Haitian families and friends across the United States, Haiti and other parts of the Americas spent the weekend excitedly searching for information about becoming a financial supporter, or sponsor, to would-be immigrants. The flurry of inquiries follows the Biden Administration’s Jan. 5 immigration announcement that it would turn back migrants from the land borders and implement a program that could bring as many as 720,000 people into the country over the next two years.
The process, detailed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the White House, allows up to 30,000 Haitians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Cubans per month, beginning Jan. 6, to enter the U.S. They will be allowed to enter and work in the U.S. if they have eligible sponsors who pledge support to them financially and pass security vetting.
DHS has not yet set a limit on the overall number of beneficiaries or length of time this program will continue as it monitors the impact.
The following is based on announcements by DHS and the White House and are subject to change as more details are released.
Program application basics
To become a financial supporter, an aspiring sponsor must initiate the process by completing Form I-134A. The application process is free and must be completed online, according to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), a DHS agency. [See below for step-by-step details]
Fluent English speakers should be able to complete the form in less than one hour if they have all necessary documents handy.
How long the government will take to process the influx of applications is not yet known. The government’s website does not say.
Important Note: The person sponsored, also referred to as the beneficiary, must follow a separate process to secure a visa to enter the U.S., if their sponsor is approved.
Who may become a financial supporter (sponsor)
U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents — people who have been granted a Green Card, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), asylum relief, deferred action or Deferred Enforced Departure — may become sponsors. Organizations or multiple individuals for one beneficiary are also eligible.
A supporter must reside in the U.S. and agree to financially support each potential immigrant — even children under 18 — as an individual beneficiary for the duration of the parole period. The status usually lasts one year, sometimes two.
The USCIS website for Form I-134A does not indicate a specific income level or financial resources required of a supporter. However, Emanuel Depas, a New York-based immigration attorney, said that in past immigration sponsorship cases, a sponsor’s annual income would need to be at 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. As of March, 2022, if there were two in the sponsor’s household, that would mean $22,887.
Examples of support a sponsor might provide, include:
- Receiving the immigrant upon arrival and transporting them to initial housing;
- Ensuring safe and appropriate housing and initial basic necessities.
- Helping the beneficiary complete paperwork for employment authorization, Social Security card and other services.
- Ensuring health care and medical needs are met.
- Assisting with accessing education, learning English, securing employment and enrolling children in school.
More than 200,000 Americans have signed up to sponsor Ukrainians seeking refuge in the U.S. under the Uniting for Ukraine program. Welcome.US, a national nonprofit that was originally started to help resettle Afghan refugees, is helping connect Ukrainians in need of sponsors with U.S. residents looking to help.
“It provides an avenue for Americans who don’t have a direct connection in the place to be able to sponsor someone from that place,” Cecilia Muñoz, co-chair of Welcome.US.
Now, as the U.S. is opening the program to Haitians, Welcome.US is working to get their content in Creole they said. Haitians who may not know someone in the U.S., or know someone with the financial means, might benefit.
And they also want to call forward more sponsors and to look at their website for more info on how to become one.
“It’s a serious commitment,” Muñoz added. “You are [offering] to receive someone and make sure that they are okay, that they have a good spirit, that they have adequate housing and that they have what they need to be successful here.”
Financial requirements for sponsorship
The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) site has not indicated as of this writing what level of support is required to apply to support a family member or friend.
Completing the correct financial support form
To complete Form I-134A, which must be filed online, follow these steps:
- Create a USCIS account by linking here and scrolling halfway down the page to the blue highlighted box, “File Online.”
- There, enter an email and password, which will be confirmed in a two-step authentication process.
- Find Form I-134A on the site.
- Complete the form online and attach or upload the appropriate supporting documents such as bank statements, employment and salary verification and recent income tax return.
What happens after submitting the application
Once the application is received, the U.S. government vets aspiring supporters to ensure they have the financial means to support the intended immigrant.
If the application pushes forward, USCIS may require fingerprints, photograph or signature to verify a supporter’s identity and obtain additional information. During the biometrics appointment, supporters will be asked to reaffirm their understanding and commitment to support the immigrant they’re sponsoring.
Tracking the application online
Throughout the process, applicants can track their cases online through their USCIS account, respond to official requests for additional information or learn the federal agency’s final decision.
Applicants for the supporter role may call the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283. For TTY (deaf or hard of hearing) 800-767-1833. A secure message can be sent through a person’s USCIS account. The Frequently Asked Questions section provides information.
Free legal clinics in various communities or licensed, reputable attorneys can also provide guidance.
CBPOne app is not for potential sponsors
The CBPOne app is not for people applying to become financial supporters, and should not be confused with the online application available on USCIS.gov. CBPOne comes into play for the traveler only after the federal government approves that person’s financial supporter.
CBPOne serves migrant travelers, such as those en route via land through South or Central America to Mexico, who may need a variety of Customs and Border Protection Services. The app directs each type of user to the services based on their needs. For example, land travelers can use it to submit their traveler information in advance, prior to their border crossing into the United States.
Beware of immigration scams
As with many immigration processes, people try to take advantage of others, requesting application fees when there are none, providing inaccurate directions or stealing private documents.
“Beware of any scams or potential exploitation by anyone who asks for money associated with participation in this process,” the official USCIS website warns.
Only an attorney or accredited representative working for a Department of Justice recognized organization can give legal advice.
Ashley Miznazi contributed to this article
The word “parole” was removed from the article to avoid confusion with its other uses in immigration.