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Path to citizenship opens for close family of US service members

The Obama Administration has just implemented an amazing new immigration policy. Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that all unauthorized-immigrant spouses, children and parents of current and former members of the U.S. military can now obtain legal status -- without leaving the country first -- as long as they have no other bar to residency.

The impact of this program on the immigrant family members of military service members -- and on the service members themselves -- will be incalculable. It means the U.S. will no longer deport unauthorized immigrants who meet the criteria. Even better, those who qualify can start down the path toward permanent residency or U.S. citizenship immediately.

The policy is called "parole in place." The USCIS already has discretionary authority to grant this parole for humanitarian reasons, and in fact the agency has already been doing so for immediate family members of American soldiers and sailors, on a limited basis, since 2010. The new policy instructs all USCIS employees to grant parole in place for any unauthorized immigrant who meets these basic criteria:

  • Is currently in the U.S.
  • Is a spouse, child or parent of an active duty or former member of the U.S. Armed Forces or the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.
  • Has no "criminal conviction or other serious adverse factors" preventing their residence in the U.S.
  • Files an application with simple supporting evidence -- and the fee has been waived.

The parole is granted for a year and is to be renewed annually. Perhaps the most exciting part is that, once parole is granted, immigrant family members are legally residing in the United States for the purposes of immigration law.

That means they don't have to leave and re-enter the country, and each year of parole counts toward any time of legal residence in the U.S. required before seeking adjustment of status. Parolees can immediately start down the path to a green card and naturalization, if they like.

For one man, a 21-year-old member of the Arizona National Guard, this changes everything. His 53-year-old father has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, he told reporters. Before the parole in place policy, he said, "at any moment, I could be overseas fighting for my country and he could be getting deported by the same country I was supposed to be fighting for."

Sources: 

  • Fox News Latino, "Immigration Directive 'Paroles' Undocumented Family Members Of U.S. Military And Veterans," Dec. 2, 2013
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy memorandum, "Parole of Spouses, Children and Parents of Active Duty Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, and Former Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve and the Effect of Parole on Inadmissibility under Immigration and Nationality Act §212(a)(6)(A)(i)," Nov. 15, 2013

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