Immigrant Relatives of U.S. Military Allowed to Stay

In November 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy memorandum clarifying that federal immigration officials may “parole in place” non-criminal immigrant family members of active-duty service members, reservists and veterans of the U.S. armed forces.  The grant of “parole” will allow immigrant spouses, children and parents of current and former military to remain in the United States in one-year increments.  In addition, some unauthorized immediate family members of military personnel will have the option to adjust to lawful permanent resident status without leaving the country.

Under Section 328 or 329 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, members and certain veterans of the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for naturalization through their military service.  Spouses and children of service members may also then be eligible for expedited or overseas naturalization.  However, many military family members are unable to adjust status because, in the past, they entered or remained in the United States without authorization.[1]  These immigrants must leave the country to obtain visas through marriage to an American citizen or some other family relationship.  However, immigrants who unlawfully lived in the United States for more than one year are barred from returning for ten years.

“Parole in place” procedures have been available for military families.  In a 2010 letter to Representative Zoe Lofgren, Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, wrote: “On a case-by-case basis, DHS utilizes parole and deferred action to minimize periods of family separation, and to facilitate adjustment of status within the United States by immigrants who are the spouses, parents and children of military members.”[2]  Margaret D. Stock, attorney at Cascadia Cross-Border Law and advisory board member for the Journal on Migration and Human Security, states that without an official memorandum, few attorneys used or were aware of this option.

For more on this topic, read Margaret D. Stock’s articles: “Hidden Immigration Benefits for Military Personnel” and “Parole in Place for Military Families.”



[1] Stock, Margaret D., “Hidden Immigration Benefits for Military Personnel.” GP Solo. September/October 2013. http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2013/september_october/hidden_immigration_benefits_military_personnel.html.

[2] Janet Napolitano to Zoe Lofgren, August 30, 2010. http://cmsny.org/wp-content/uploads/Napolitano-Letter-08.30.101.pdf.