President Biden Announces Parole in Place for Undocumented Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Humanitarian Immigration News

President Biden announces parole in place expansion for undocumented spouses of US citizens

In a significant move aimed at promoting family unity and stability, President Joe Biden announced a new policy to protect undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens from deportation. This initiative, known as "parole in place," will allow certain individuals to obtain temporary legal status and work permits, easing their path to citizenship and providing much-needed relief to mixed-status families across the country.

Overview of the Parole in Place Program

The parole in place program, already utilized to maintain family unity for military families, is now being expanded to benefit undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens. This policy grants temporary legal status and work authorization to qualifying individuals, helping them avoid deportation and gain economic stability. Under the existing program, military families have been able to stay together despite immigration challenges, recognizing the critical role family unity plays in the well-being and readiness of military personnel.

Under the new expansion announced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), undocumented immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens can apply for parole in place if they meet certain criteria. They must have been continuously residing in the United States for over ten years and be married to a U.S. citizen. The DHS estimates that approximately 500,000 to 1.1 million individuals could benefit from this program.

This policy not only protects undocumented spouses from deportation, it also paves a path to citizenship. It's a crucial step in helping families achieve economic stability and reducing the stress and uncertainty that comes with undocumented status. By extending this benefit to undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens, the Biden administration aims to promote family unity and provide a more humane solution to the challenges faced by mixed-status families.

Eligibility for Parole Program

Under the proposed guidelines, an individual must meet all of the following requirements to be considered on a case-by-case basis for this process:

  • Be present in the United States without admission or parole;
  • Have been continuously present in the United States for at least 10 years as of June 17, 2024; and
  • Have a legally valid marriage to a U.S. citizen as of June 17, 2024.

Additionally, parole in place applicants must not have any disqualifying criminal history or otherwise constitute a threat to national security or public safety and should otherwise merit a favorable exercise of discretion.

If the applicant has undocumented children, USCIS will also consider parole under this process if they are physically present in the United States without admission or parole and have a qualifying stepchild relationship to a U.S. citizen as of June 17, 2024.

Benefits of the New Policy for Undocumented Spouses of U.S. Citizens

The parole in place program for undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens offers several key benefits. It protects these individuals from deportation, grants them temporary legal status, and provides work authorization, enabling them to contribute economically. Additionally, this program paves the way for these spouses to apply for a green card, facilitating a path to U.S. citizenship. By promoting family unity and stability, the program offers a humane and practical solution to their immigration challenges.

Benefits of Parole in Process

This policy not only protects undocumented spouses from deportation but also provides them with the ability to work legally in the United States. This is a crucial step in helping families achieve economic stability and reducing the stress and uncertainty that comes with undocumented status. Once approved for parole in place, the beneficiary immediately receives:

  • Lawful parole that protects them from deportation; and
  • An employment authorization document (work permit).
Pathway to Citizenship for Undocumented Spouses

One of the most significant aspects of the parole in place program is its potential to facilitate a pathway to U.S. citizenship. Currently, many undocumented immigrants face significant barriers in adjusting their status due to an entry without inspection (unlawful entry). Generally, a lawful entry is a prerequisite for applying for a green card inside the U.S. However, a grant of parole fixes this problem.

Once approved for the program, parolees receive an I-94 arrival/departure record. This document is critical because it shows the individually has been lawfully admitted to the United States. With this lawful entry, the spouse may "adjust status" to that of a permanent resident (green card holder). Green card holders will be able to citizenship through naturalization after three years.

How to Apply for Parole in Place

In order to be considered for parole, an individual will need to file a form with USCIS along with supporting documentation and a fee. Further information regarding eligibility and the application process, including a notice in the Federal Register, will be published in the near term. USCIS will reject any filings or individual requests received before the date when the application period begins later this summer. For updates, sign up for our newsletter below.

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What You Can Do to Prepare (updated 7/17/2024)

Again, USCIS is not currently accepting applications. However, you can begin to prepare to file a parole application by gathering evidence of your eligibility. Examples of supporting documents include:

  • Evidence of a legally valid marriage to a U.S. citizen as of June 17, 2024, such as a marriage certificate;
  • Documentation of proof of identity, including expired documents may include:
    • Valid state or country driver’s license or identification;
    • Birth certificate with photo identification;
    • Valid passport; or
    • Any government issued document bearing the requestor’s name, date of birth, and photo.
  • Evidence of your spouse’s U.S. citizenship, such as a passport, birth certificate or Certificate of Naturalization;
  • Documentation to establish your continued presence in the United States for at least 10 years, as of June 17, 2024. Examples of documentation could include copies of:
    • Rent receipts or utility bills;
    • School records (letters, report cards, etc.);
    • Hospital or medical records;
    • Attestations to your residence by religious entities, unions, or other organizations, identifying you by name;
    • Official records from a religious entity confirming participation in a religious ceremony;
    • Money order receipts for money sent into or out of the United States;
    • Birth certificates of children born in the United States;
    • Dated bank transactions;
    • Automobile license receipts, title, or registration;
    • Deeds, mortgages, or rental agreement contracts;
    • Insurance policies; or
    • Tax returns or tax receipts.

Gathering this evidence is critical to establishing your eligibility for the parole in place program. Even if this program is derailed by courts or politicians, evidence of your U.S. residence will likely be a key component of any future laws or policies that faciliate a path to legal status.

Spouses Who Overstayed Generally Don't Need Parole

The parole in place program is designed for individuals who entered the United States without documentation. It's the unlawful entry that creates the biggest problem. However, noncitizens who entered with a visa or other immigration status that has since expired already have a path to a green card through a U.S. citizen spouse.

In fact, immediate relatives of a U.S. citizens (such as a spouse) may adjust status to permanent resident after a visa overstay. The law provides a form of visa forgiveness to individuals in the immediate relative category. Thus, most undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens who have an expired visa can apply for a green card now.

Political Support and Social Implications

The announcement of the parole in place program comes at a crucial time, as President Biden seeks to address the long-standing issues within the U.S. immigration system. The administration has been under pressure from immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers to prioritize reforms that support long-term undocumented immigrants.

In his announcement, President Biden emphasized the importance of creating a fair and just immigration system. "Let's fix the problem and stop fighting about it," he said, highlighting the need for practical solutions that address the realities faced by mixed-status families.

The parole in place program has received strong support from various advocacy organizations and community groups. These organizations argue that providing legal status and work permits to undocumented spouses is both humane and economically sensible.

However, the policy has also faced criticism, particularly from conservative lawmakers who argue that it does not go far enough in addressing the broader issues of illegal immigration. Some have expressed concerns that the policy could encourage more illegal immigration if not implemented with strict guidelines and effective enforcement measures. Thus, the new policy could quickly run into legal challenges before being implemented.

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