Expansion of the Central American Minors (CAM) Program
In July, the United States announced plans to expand the Central American Minors (CAM) program to allow additional categories of applicants to apply for admission to the United States as a refugee, when accompanied by a qualifying child. This expansion builds on the in-country refugee/parole program established in 2014 that provides a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are taking to reach the United States. The CAM program protects Central Americans at risk by allowing lawfully present parents in the United States to request refugee status for their children in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala via the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
Effective Date and Additional Categories
Effective November 15, 2016, applications for additional eligible family members requesting access will be accepted. The following are the specific new categories of applicants announced in July who may be considered for admission into the United States when accompanied by an unmarried, under 21 qualifying child:
(1) The children, regardless of age or marital status, of a U.S.-based lawfully present parent;
(2) The in-country biological parent of a qualifying child that is not legally married to the U.S.-based lawfully present parent; and
(3) The caregiver of a qualifying child who is related to either the U.S.-based lawfully present parent or the qualifying child.
All of these expanded category relatives must independently establish that they qualify as a refugee.
An in-country biological parent or caregiver of a qualifying child may also be considered for parole on a case-by-case basis, if found ineligible for refugee admission.
Married sons or daughters and/or age 21 or older sons or daughters of a U.S.-based, lawfully present parent who are found ineligible for refugee admission may apply for parole by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document available at https://www.uscis.gov/i-131
DNA relationship testing will also be required for all expanded category relatives.
The application process for the CAM program remains unchanged. Applications for this program are initiated in the United States. A qualifying parent will be able to file a CAM Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) Form (DS-7699) and request access for these expanded category relatives with the assistance of a designated refugee resettlement agency that partners with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. A list of more than 350 resettlement agency affiliates across more than 180 communities throughout the United States is available at https://www.wrapsnet.org. The application must be completed in-person at an office of a designated resettlement agency affiliate. There are no fees to file a DS-7699 form.
At the time of filing, a qualifying parent will be required to present proof of qualifying lawful presence in the United States and a digital photo of the qualifying child and eligible family members requesting access to the program. If requesting access for either an in-country biological parent of a qualifying child that is not legally married to the U.S. -based lawfully present parent or the caregiver of a qualifying child (sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) above), a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support (available at https://www.uscis.gov/i-134) is required. If requesting access to the program on behalf of the child of married sons or daughters and/or age 21 or older sons or daughters, (sub-paragraph (1) above) a qualifying parent does not need to file Form I-134, Affidavit of Support at the time of AOR filing.
Once a DS-7699 form has been filed, the child in his/her home country and all eligible family members will be assisted through the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which manages the U.S. Resettlement Support Center in Latin America. IOM will contact the applicants in their country of origin, and will conduct pre-screening interviews for the qualifying child and family members and support processing as the case proceeds through DNA testing, Department of Homeland Security interview, and all medical and security checks.
For a temporary period of time, the expansion of the CAM program will apply retroactively in certain cases. A qualifying, lawfully present parent who filed a CAM Affidavit of Relationship (DS-7699) from December 1, 2014, through November 30, 2016, and wishes to request access for expanded category relatives will need to file an amended DS-7699 prior to September 30, 2017. This amended form must be completed in-person at an office of a designated refugee resettlement agency affiliate. An amended AOR form filed on or before this date will be processed regardless of where the qualifying child is in the process as long as the relationships of the expanded category relatives can be verified through DNA testing. The DNA verification will avoid processing delays and allow the qualifying child and previously-eligible family members (parents legally married to the qualifying parent in the U.S.) to continue processing.
A qualifying, lawfully present parent will not be able to file an amended DS-7699 to retroactively request the admission of a family member whose relationship is not verifiable through DNA if the qualifying child has already traveled to the United States. This exclusion from retroactivity applies, for example, to caregivers who are not the child’s biological grandparent or any step/adopted siblings of the qualifying child. For pending applications in which a qualifying child has not yet departed the host nation for the United States, resettlement agency caseworkers will inform the qualifying parent of the options available for adding expanded category relatives whose relationship cannot be verified through DNA testing.
Additional information on the CAM Program and details on its expansion can be found at https://www.wrapsnet.org.