In general, and with some limited exceptions, foreign national spouses of U.S. citizens who are present in the U.S. may only apply for permanent residence or a “green card” within the U.S. (i.e. “adjustment of status”) if he or she last entered the U.S. lawfully, or with inspection. For those foreign national spouses who last entered the U.S. without inspection (i.e. “EWI”), the application process for permanent residence requires departing the U.S. to process the case at a U.S. consulate abroad. In such situations, departure from the U.S. may trigger a three or ten year bar to returning to the U.S. While it is possible to file an application for a waiver to remove the bar, such waivers can be very difficult to obtain.
Fortunately for military couples in this position, in recent years, the federal government has implemented a new program called “Parole in Place,” which eliminates this need to depart the U.S. for foreign national spouses who entered the U.S. without inspection, and who are spouses of U.S. citizens active in the U.S. military.
The Parole in Place program allows foreign national spouses of U.S. citizens active in the U.S. military and who entered the U.S. without inspection, to apply for a green card without leaving the country, eliminating the need for a waiver. In a memorandum released in 2010, Alejandro Mayorkas, the Director of the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), explained that the “USCIS has the discretionary authority […] to parole into the U.S. on a case-by-case basis for ‘urgent humanitarian reasons’ or ‘significant public benefit’ any applicant for admission” and that “[g]ranting parole to aliens in the U.S. who have not been admitted or paroled is commonly referred to as ‘parole-in-place’ (PIP).”
The memorandum adds that “[b]y granting PIP, USCIS can eliminate the need for qualified recipients to return to their home country for consular processing, particularly when doing so might trigger a bar to returning.” It also explains that USCIS has “approved the broader use of PIP for qualified military dependents [in order to] preserve family unity [and] avoid the need for spouses and children of active duty military service members to depart the U.S. and wait in foreign, often very dangerous jurisdictions for consulate processing.” Therefore, such spouses can file their green card applications in the U.S. after first being granted Parole in Place by a local USCIS office, and do not need to depart the U.S. to obtain a green card and risk triggering a three or ten year bar.
While this program has been around for several years, many individuals are unaware of it or unsure how to apply for it. If you or someone you know is the spouse of a U.S. citizen that is active in the military, and may benefit from an application for Parole in Place and then a green card, please contact an immigration attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.