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FAQ: Cuban and Haitian Humanitarian Parolees

Western Pennsylvania is one of the many places Cubans and Haitians are coming to after leaving their home countries. While provisions have been made for them to temporarily live and work in the U.S. Many still have questions about their legal status and what services and resources are available. 

Country of origin impacts the benefits and resources available for Humanitarian Parolees. The following is specific to Cuban and Haitian Humanitarian parolees and is current as of September, 2023. 

1) What status do Cubans and Haitians have when they get to the U.S.? Are they refugees?

The U.S. government provides travel authorization to safely bring qualifying individuals into the United States on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit as part of the Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan parolee program.

This document is specific to Cuban and Haitian Humanitarian parolees.

Cuban and Haitians are not arriving as refugees. In most cases, refugee status is a legal classification for people who fear persecution if returned to their home country. With a humanitarian parolee status, the expectation (and hope) from the U.S. government is that residency in the U.S. is temporary.

2) What is a humanitarian parolee and how does someone apply?

Humanitarian Parolees must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen in advance of leaving their home country.

The sponsor in the U.S. must file Form I-134a on behalf of the beneficiary and include the beneficiary’s contact information. Once the filing has been reviewed and approved by USCIS, the beneficiary will receive information on how to proceed. The sponsor legally agrees to provide financial support for the duration of an individual or family’s parolee period by filling out form I-134A, found here.

Once the forms have been submitted and accepted, a humanitarian parolee has permission to enter and remain in the U.S. for a certain period of time. Cubans and Haitians have been given up to two years to live and work in the U.S.

There are a few qualifications to apply:

  • Beneficiaries must be nationals of Cuba or Haiti and currently live outside of the U.S.
  • Travel authorization does not allow children under the age of 18 to travel without a parent or legal guardian.
  • Beneficiaries must have valid, unexpired passport from Cuba or Haiti
  • At this time, JFCS is unable to connect beneficiaries with potential U.S. sponsors for this program.

3) What happens when the two parolee years are over?

Currently, the humanitarian parolee period is set for up to two years. If a family or individual would like to remain in the U.S., they need to apply for permanent residency through traditional legal pathways.

It is highly recommended that all parolees speak with an immigration attorney as early as possible to explore their options. Our attorneys at JFCS Immigration Legal Services are available to answer questions, provide advice and make referrals for immigration legal services. Contact our legal team at immigrationlegal@jfcspgh.org or fill out our online referral form.

4) What benefits or services do Cubans/Haitians qualify for?

Humanitarian parolees are eligible for work authorization in the U.S. for two years and, if they qualify, they can collect government benefits like food stamps, cash assistance, and medical assistance.
Core services are provided by the sponsor. As part of the application process to become a sponsor, the sponsor has a legal commitment to provide core assistance to support a successful transition to life in the U.S.

It is important to be aware that as the sponsor, you are making a few critical commitments:

  • Provide safe and appropriate housing for the duration of their stay and initial basic necessities.
    Help complete necessary paperwork for employment authorization, a Social Security card, and for services for which they may be eligible.
  • Ensure that the beneficiary’s health care and medical needs are met for the duration of the parolee.
  • Help the beneficiary access education, learn English, secure employment and enroll children in school.
  • While JFCS is available to help sponsors navigate the system, it is the sponsor’s legal responsibility to support the arrival.

5) How is JFCS helping Cubans/Haitians coming to Pittsburgh?

Parolees qualify for services offered by JFCS if they have been in the U.S. for up to 5 years.

Cubans and Haitians Initial Services (CHIS) is a new program that provides 90 days of case management services to ensure Cubans and Haitians are connected with benefits and resources to help them address barriers that limit their self-sufficiency.

In addition to immigration legal assistance, our dedicated team of staff are focused on working with and meeting the needs of Cubans and Haitians. Humanitarian Parolees qualify for benefits like other legal U.S. residents.

The following services and benefits are available to Cubans and Haitians with humanitarian parolee status who have lived in the U.S. for up to 5 years.

  • Benefits application
  • SNAP
  • Medicaid
  • Limited financial assistance
  • Cultural orientation
  • ESL programs
  • Work authorization application
  • Employment services– to help find a job
  • Legal assistance -to answer questioned about your legal status
  • Community connections through support groups and social media

The following departments at JFCS will assist parolees with accessing benefits and support.

  • JFCS Refugee & Immigrant Services: Cubans and Haitians who receive humanitarian parolee can receive 90 days of case management to help with benefits paperwork, legal referrals, social security applications, ESL referrals, and other important services that their U.S. sponsors may not be familiar with.
  • JFCS Immigration Legal Services: Our team is also available with questions regarding legal status in the U.S. and helping parolees get work authorization.
  • JFCS Career Services: Career Counselors are available to meet with Cubans and Haitians and assist them in identifying career opportunities in the greater Pittsburgh area.
    Contact us at 412-422-7200 or refugee@jfcspgh.org for assistance.


  • Intake line: 412.742.4213
  • Email: refugee@jfcspgh.org
  • Information & Resources: jfcspgh.org/refugees

Download this information as a .PDF here.