The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) provides free legal help to some refugees and displaced people.
- IRAP helps some people find services and prepare refugee and visa applications.
- IRAP is not part of any government, IOM, or UNHCR.
- IRAP cannot grant refugee status or visas or speed up cases.
- IRAP cannot provide financial help, find or pay for housing, or find jobs.
- All of IRAP’s help is free. No one affiliated with IRAP has the right to ask you for money or any other service.
IRAP decides to help people based on their need and eligibility for immigration status. IRAP does not decide to help people based on any other social or political or religious criteria.
This website provides general information about legal processes available to some refugees. It is not meant as legal advice for individual applications.
This information was revised in January 2023. Requirements may change. Always check for current requirements from the government or agency deciding your request.
This page includes general information on the CAM Program and what to expect if you apply. The government is now accepting new applications for the CAM program as of September 14, 2021.
To apply for the CAM Program, contact the IRC CAM Hotline at (917) 410-7546 or info@menoresCAM.com. Or complete the KIND national online referral form available here. Alternatively, contact your local resettlement agency. This website lists the resettlement agencies in your area. Click the most up-to-date “R&P Affiliate Directory.” Unfortunately, this directory is known to be outdated and inaccurate, but there is no newer public version available.
What is CAM? The Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee and Parole Program is a legal pathway through which certain children and other eligible family members facing persecution or danger in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras can reunite with certain parents, guardians, and family members who are lawfully present in the United States.
Am I eligible to apply for CAM? To apply for your children and family members in Central America, you must be a parent or legal guardian who lives in the United States, is over the age of 18, and has one of the following legal statuses both at the time of application and at the time of your child’s or family members’ potential travel to the United States:
- Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
- Legal Permanent Residence, also known as green card holder
- Parole (for a minimum of one year)
- Deferred Action, e.g., DACA (for a minimum of one year)
- Deferred Enforced Departure
- Withholding of Removal
- Pending asylum application (filed before April 11, 2023)
- Pending U visa petition (filed before April 11, 2023)
- Pending T visa application (filed before April 11, 2023)
For whom can I apply to enter the United States? This government website has details on whom you can include in your application. Family members that you can include on your application include:
- Your children (biological, step, or legally adopted) who are unmarried, under the age of 21 at the time of application, and a national of and physically residing in El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. These children are called qualifying children.
- Other family members so long as you add them on the same application as the qualifying children:
- Your grandchildren: Children of your qualifying children, who are unmarried, under the age of 21, and in their country of origin.
- Your spouse: Your spouse in Central America if they are part of the same household as your qualifying child; legally married to you at the time of application; and continue to be married to you at time of entering the United States. This spouse can also bring their unmarried children under the age of 21, even if those children are not related to you.
- Your children’s other parent who is not married to you: In-country parent of the qualifying child if they are the biological parent of the child and part of the same household. This parent can also bring their unmarried children under the age of 21, even if those children are not related to you. This parent can also bring their legal spouse.
- Your children who are married and/or 21 years old or older. These children can bring their spouses and unmarried children who are under the age of 21.
- If you are a legal guardian, not parent, then you can include the siblings of the qualifying child who are married and/or 21 years old or older.
- Your child’s caregiver: Primary caregiver of the qualifying child who is part of the same household as the qualifying child, and is related to you or the qualifying child.
- If you are a legal guardian, the primary caregiver of the qualifying child must be related to the qualifying child.
The CAM program allows these children and family members to enter the United States as either refugees or parolees. All beneficiaries are first considered for refugee status and then, if denied refugee status, considered for parole status.
If I apply for CAM, what should I expect? The steps of the application process are:
- Submit application: Qualifying parent or guardian with lawful status in the United States applies for CAM with help from the organizations submitting applications nationally, KIND and IRC, or from a local resettlement agency. To apply through the national system, call the IRC CAM Hotline at (917) 410-7546. Or submit a referral form through this link. To apply through a local resettlement agency, use this website that lists the resettlement agencies to identify the one in your area. Click the most up-to-date “R&P Affiliate Directory.” There is no fee to apply for the CAM program.
- Pre-screening: Your child and family members in Central America will undergo a pre-screening interview by the International Organization for Migration (“IOM”). IOM is a contractor of the U.S. Department of State. The information collected in this pre-screening interview is passed to the US Government in conducting your refugee interview later. For more information, please visit IRAP’s USRAP interview preparation guide through this link.
- DNA test: If you are claiming a biological parent-child relationship, you and your children will take a DNA test to prove your relationship. A DNA test is also required for all family members applying for the CAM program if their relationship to you or your children can be verified through DNA. As of December 2022, the US Government is supposed to pay for DNA tests and families are not supposed to have to pay. In practice, many families pay and can request reimbursement in order to ensure the tests occur promptly.
- Interview: Your child and family members will be interviewed in the country that they are in by the US Government agency, USCIS, if CAM processing is available there. CAM processing is available in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. For more information, please visit IRAP’s USRAP interview preparation guide through this link.
- CAM Decision: USCIS decides whether your child and family members may enter on refugee status or parole status.
- Refugee track: If USCIS decides that your child or family members can enter as a refugee, it means that USCIS thinks that they have been harmed or have a valid fear of harm because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Refugee status is permanent permission to live in the United States and is a way to become a Legal Permanent Resident and then US citizen.
- Parole track: If USCIS decides that your child and family members do not meet the definition of a refugee, they will be considered for parole status. If USCIS decides that they can enter on parole status, that means they will have temporary permission to join you in the United States. Parole status will usually last three years and as of December 2022, can be renewed.
- Challenging USCIS denial: If USCIS denies your child’s or family member’s refugee or parole case, they may challenge that decision. For more information on challenging refugee denials, please visit IRAP’s guide through this link. It is their choice whether a challenge to the refugee decision pauses the parole processing. But in practice they may have to affirmatively state their preference. Otherwise, challenging the refugee denial will likely stop parole processing.
- Medical Exam: Your children and family members must complete a medical exam. Those traveling on parole status will have to pay for all fees related to the medical exam. Covid tests are required 1-2 days before the medical exam. Once medical exams are approved, travel to the United States must occur before the expiration of the exams. Otherwise, the exams must be completed again.
Travel and Entry to the United States: Your children and family members travel to the United States.
- If they were approved for refugee status, IOM will assist with travel arrangements. The local refugee resettlement agency will provide them with resettlement services when they arrive in the United States.
If they were conditionally approved for parole status, you will be responsible for coordinating travel arrangements with IOM and for all travel fees. At the United States port of entry, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) will make the final decision on whether your children and family members will be given parole and for how long. Read information here on what rights you have in the United States while on parole and how you can stay in the United States for longer than your approved time.
- If they are on the parole track, it is important to take a picture of all travel and immigration documents, including the Form I-512L, since sometimes CBP takes this and does not return it.
- If CBP approves your child or family member for parole of less than three years, please contact the IRC Hotline at (917) 410-7546 for assistance, as the one- or two-year period may be in error.
- As a parolee, one must apply for work authorization and a social security number. Parolees do not receive them automatically.
- Finally, if possible, renew parole status approximately one year before it expires.