parole-in-place-military-familiesOn November 15, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new change in U.S. immigration policy so that undocumented family (spouses, children, and parents) of members of the U.S. Armed Forces can avoid deportation. Considering all the service that immigrants and their families have contributed to the U.S. military throughout our history, this is an extremely important and necessary step in the right direction.

According to Thursday’s policy memorandum from USCIS, “Military preparedness can potentially be adversely affected if [members of the U.S. Armed Forces and other individuals] who can be quickly called into active duty, worry about the immigration status of their spouses, parents and children.” The new directive is a common sense measure that was almost three years in the making, and it didn’t come a moment too soon. There are tens of thousands of people in U.S. Armed Forces with immediate family members who are undocumented, and deporting the closest family members of U.S. soldiers makes no sense for either U.S. defense or humanitarian goals.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said the policy change was enacted “to reduce the uncertainty our active-duty and retired military personnel face because of the immigration status of their family members.” The policy allows undocumented applicants to stay in the U.S. while completing their process of transitioning to legal status, which was never an option before. Previously, even individuals who qualify for the provisional waiver of inadmissibility (I-601A) must return to their home country briefly for consular processing.

The legal benefits of Parole in Place for military families

The program is officially designated as “parole in place” (PIP) for undocumented immigrants. Similar to deferred action, parole in place has existed for several years already, but has recently been expanded to provide work permits for a larger group of immigrants. The PIP status, which includes a temporary work permit, is granted for one year and is subject to renewal. Depending on the undocumented individual’s immigration history, he or she may also be able to apply for a green card eventually. All recipients of the PIP program will be free from risk of deportation due to their unlawful status.

How to obtain PIP if your spouse, parent, or child is a part of the U.S. military

This program was just introduced last week, so we are still waiting for more details from USCIS on specifics in the application. We do know that PIP is discretionary, which means it will be up to the individual government officer to determine your approval. In the past, PIP has been granted very rarely for exceptional cases. For applicants with U.S. Armed Forces family members, however, it’s expected that as long as they don’t have any major criminal issues, they will qualify. Though the process may seem straightforward, applying for parole in place for military family members absolutely requires the consultation of an immigration attorney, especially because the program and its guidelines are so new.

Here is a general outline of what an undocumented applicant needs to qualify for parole in place for military families:

  • Form I-131: Application for Travel Document (USCIS says in this situation the form fee will be waived)
  • Evidence of the family relationship between the applicant and the U.S. Armed Forces member
  • Evidence that the undocumented individual’s family member is in the U.S. Armed Forces (evidence includes things like a photocopy of both the front and back of the service member’s military ID card)
  • Two identical, color, passport style photographs
  • Evidence of any additional favorable discretionary factors that the applicant wishes to be considered