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Green Cards for U.S. Military Families

On November 15, 2013, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) released a Policy Memorandum which amended several provisions of the Adjudicator’s Field Manual such that the spouses, children and parents of Armed Forces personnel are now able to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent resident under certain circumstances.  The change affects the family members of those who are serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, or veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces or Selected Reserve.

The policy change is the result of an acknowledgement by both USCIS and the Department of Justice that U.S. Armed Forces personal were experiencing additional stress and anxiety as a result of the immigration status of their family members who were living in the United States without status.  The Memorandum points out that, “We as a nation have made a commitment to our veterans, to support and care for them.  It is a commitment that begins at enlistment, and continues as they become veterans.”

This process, now available to family members of armed servicemen and servicewomen, is known as “parole in place,” as it permits an alien to be paroled into the U.S. even if the alien is already present, but without an admission at a border or point of entry.  Thus, if the lack of a lawful admission is the only barrier to an alien’s adjustment of status, and that alien is the immediate relative of a member of present or former member of the Armed Forces, they will now be eligible to apply for a green card.

A recent article on FoxNews.com (“Immigration change gives legal status to undocumented relatives of US military”) points out that this change has been controversial because some believe the regulation should have been approved by Congress.  However, this Memorandum is well within the powers of the executive branch because it applies to the implementation of existing statutes.  Indeed, parole and advanced parole have been available for decades at the discretion of the government agencies responsible for carrying out the nation’s immigration laws. Though parole in place has historically been used only vary sparingly, it is not a new law or concept.

Parole is authorized in one-year increments. No filing fee is required for an application for parole in place for family members of U.S. Armed Forces personnel.

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