Parole in Place for Military Families
How Certain Undocumented Family Members Benefit
Parole in place (PIP) is available to certain undocumented family members of U.S. military personnel (active or veterans). Beneficiaries who are granted PIP are provided authorization to stay and work in the United States. More importantly, PIP beneficiaries are "paroled" for the purposes of applying for a green card inside the U.S. under §245(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Parole in place is a significant benefit that’s generally not available to family members of civilians. The policy maintains family unity and gives service members peace of mind.
The Problem Addressed by Parole in Place
Under current immigration law, people who entered the United States without inspection (unlawfully) generally cannot apply for permanent residence (green card) from inside the U.S., a process known as adjustment of status. In these cases, the undocumented family member cannot obtain a green card unless he or she returns to the home country for consular processing. However, in most cases, that person will trigger a 3- to 10-year bar as a penalty for the previous unlawful presence. This policy has been criticized because it forces the family to split up and generally makes immigration extraordinarily difficult after an unlawful presence. For members of the U.S. armed forces, these scenarios can create stress and anxiety that adversely affects military preparedness.
Parole in Place Benefits
The parole in place policy aims to prevent the separation of military families by allowing certain family members to remain in the United States. In addition to being in an authorized stay, the previously undocumented family member(s) may also be eligible for employment authorization. Generally, immediate family members can adjust status to permanent resident (green card holder).
Protection from Deportation and Employment
The immediate parole-in-place benefits include protection from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. PIP authorizes the individual's stay in the United States for a one-year period. The beneficiary is also given an I-94 arrival/departure record as evidence of parole. With the I-94 record, the individual may apply for an employment authorization document (work permit) using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Applicants are eligible for the work permit as parolees.
Adjustment of Status
Adjustment of status, the process of applying for a green card within the United States, requires a lawful entry. One of the primary benefits of parole in place is the I-94 arrival/departure record. The I-94 is evidence of a lawful entry for the purposes of adjusting status. Even though the individual initially entered the U.S. unlawfully, PIP allows the individual to be eligible to adjust status under INA §245(a). Because an immigrant visa is always available to the spouse, parents, and unmarried children (under age 21) of U.S. citizens, these individuals may generally adjust status immediately. Other types of relationships (such as the spouse and child of lawful permanent residents) may have to wait for an immigrant visa to become available.
Not a Cure All
A grant of PIP cures the inadmissibility ground under INA §212(a)(6)(A)(i), relating to individuals "present in the United States without being admitted or paroled," but does not impact other inadmissibility grounds. In other words, the beneficiary must be eligible to adjust status to permanent resident under INA §245(a) grounds of inadmissibility.
Staff Sgt. Alex Jimenez’s Legacy
In May 2007, Specialist Alex Jimenez was abducted by insurgents while serving in the U.S. army in Iraq. Tragically, all three captured soldiers would later lose their lives. Prior to his disappearance, Alex had filed papers with USCIS, seeking to obtain a green card for his wife, Yaderlin. Unfortunately the application caught the attention of immigration officials. Yaderlin had unlawfully entered the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in 2001. Removal proceedings began. The government wanted Yaderlin to leave the U.S. and seek her visa in the Dominican Republic. Of course with her husband missing and without his support, she could not hope to return to the U.S. What’s more, after departing the U.S., she would be barred for 10 years from applying. Her prospects seemed hopeless.
Yaderlin’s difficult situation gained national attention soon after Alex’s disappearance. An immigration judge put a temporary stop to the proceedings, and high-ranking government officials took notice. Eventually, the Department of Homeland Security exercised its authority to grant “discretionary parole” to Yaderlin. With this measure in place, she was eligible to adjust status to permanent resident despite her unlawful entry. Within days Yaderlin was able to acquire her green card. She would be guaranteed the right to live in the United States.
Jimenez was a 25-year-old specialist when he was captured; he was promoted to sergeant during his disappearance. His tragic death brought additional attention to the highly criticized policy of separating families in the deportation process and probably accelerated changes for undocumented family members of U.S. citizens in the military. In November 2013, USCIS issued the memorandum which outlined a new policy known as parole in place.
How to Obtain a Green Card through Parole in Place
Foreign national spouses, parents, sons and daughters of U.S. military service members (current or past) who are in the U.S. without a lawful entry may be eligible. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may approved these individuals for parole in place on a discretionary basis. Parole in place may be available to a foreign national who:
- Is physically present in the United States without inspection; and
- Is the spouse, parent, son or daughter (any age) of:
- an Active Duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces,
- someone in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, or
- someone who previously served in the U.S. Armed Forces or the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve; and
- Does not have a criminal conviction or other serious adverse factor.
These are the basic requirements. It is important to point out that a grant of parole in place is not a guarantee. The U.S. government evaluates each application on a case-by-case basis
A foreign national who entered the United States with a valid visa (that is now expired) is not eligible for parole in place. Generally, immediate relatives (spouses, parents and unmarried children (under age 21) of U.S. citizens) who entered on a valid visa may adjust status after a visa overstay. These individuals, as well as other family members not categorized as immediate relatives, may also be available for deferred action.
Apply for Parole in Place
According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a parole in place application should be submitted at a local USCIS field office with jurisdiction over the applicant's place of residence. Individuals with no criminal history, no extensive immigration violations, and generally good moral character have the best chance for approval. The application package should contain the following items:
Cover LetterLetters should be addressed to the director of the local USCIS field office. Include biographical information about the service member or veteran, detail the service, describe the service member's relationship to the applicant, applicant's immigration status, if any petitions have been filed, and the hardship caused to the service member due to the applicant's legal status;
Form I-131, Application for Travel DocumentSubmit a completed Form I-131. The form does not have an option for a "parole in place" application type. Applicants should hand write “Military PIP” in Part 2 instead of checking a box according to USCIS. (No fee is required.);
Evidence of a Family Relationship to Service Member
- Parent/Child: copy of the child's birth certificate or adoption decree; or marriage certificate between the biological parent and step parent if step child; or evidence showing the child was legitimated (photographs, proof of financial support, or other documentation) if child born out of wedlock;
- Spouse: copy of the marriage certificate and evidence showing bona fide nature of the marriage (photographs, birth certificate of children, copies of income taxes filed jointly, joint bank accounts);
- Surviving Family Members: proof of residence in the United States at the time of the service member's death;
Evidence that Applicant's Family Member's Military Service
- Photocopy of front and back of the service member's military identification card (DD Form 1173 can be obtained through the National Archives Website);
- Deployment orders for service member (if applicable);
Evidence of Service Member's U.S. Citizenship or Permanent Residence
- U.S. Citizen: Submit a copy of a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, certificate of citizenship, unexpired U.S. passport or consular report of birth abroad (FS-240);
- Permanent Resident: Submit a copy of a green card, Form I-797 indicating a grant of permanent residence, or unexpired Form I-551 stamp in a passport;
Proof of Identity or NationalitySubmit either (1) a copy of a passport or (2) a copy of a birth certificate and a copy of a government-issued photo identification (such as a state ID or driver's license);
Passport PhotosSubmit two passport-style photos of the applicant;
Evidence of Any Additional Favorable Discretionary FactorsIf relevant, submit any other favorable factors that you wish for USCIS to consider such as:
- Awards or commendations the military service member has received;
- Awards and certificates received by the applicant;
- Enrollment in education programs, community service, volunteer work;
- Participation in religious organizations or other community organizations;
- Character reference letters about applicant;
Certified Criminal Disposition (if relevant)Submit a criminal disposition with the assistance of experienced legal counsel.
Statement about Last EntryDepending on the USCIS office where your application is processed, you may need to submit a separate statement that explains the approximate time, place and circumstances of your most recent entry to the United States.
Any document containing foreign language submitted to USCIS must be accompanied by a full English language certified translation.
Upon approval, USCIS will grant temporary authorization to stay in the United States for a one-year period. Beneficiaries may generally extend their stay by submitting another PIP application. During the authorized stay in a parole status, the beneficiary may also apply for employment authorization. More importantly, the foreign national will receive an I-94 Arrival/Departure record as evidence of parole status. The I-94 is critical evidence that is necessary to apply for permanent resident status through the adjustment of status process.
Apply for a Green Card
With a grant of parole in place (and an I-94 in hand), the foreign national can generally proceed with the adjustment of status application if an immigrant visa is immediately available. Immediate relatives (spouse, parent, and unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens) always have an immigrant visa available. All other family preference categories will require a wait. A family-based application for permanent residence will typically include the following forms:
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary (if beneficiary is a spouse)
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (optional)
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (optional)
An adjustment of status application package will also include several supporting documents. The list of items is highly dependent on the type of relationship and specific answers on the forms. Please refer to the USCIS website for each form or your CitizenPath filing instructions.