On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced executive actions to change immigration policy. One of these reforms will expand the existing “parole in place” program for the spouses, children, and parents of members of the U.S. Armed Forces. That program was officially recognized and implemented by a November 15, 2013 memo that described eligibility and filing procedures for parole in place. This FAQ summarizes that memo and the proposed expansion.
What is parole in place?
Parole in place is a status that allows undocumented family members of those who are in the U.S. Armed Forces the right to reside in the United States and qualify for certain benefits. Those benefits include eligibility for employment authorization and, for some individuals, eligibility for adjustment of status. The Department of Homeland Security paroles people into the United States for humanitarian reasons or significant public interest in cases where they would otherwise not qualify to enter with a visa. Parole in place, on the other hand, is the term used by DHS when granting parole to people who are already physically present in the United States after an entry without inspection.
The spouses, parents, and children of those who:
- Are serving as active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces
- Are current members of the Selected Reserve or the Ready Reserve, or
- Previously served in the U.S. Armed Forces or Selected Reserve or the Ready Reserve
Is the immigration status of the military member or veteran relevant?
In order to serve in the military one must be either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR). Therefore, it is unlikely that the military member will not be in one of these categories. However, the memo is silent on the necessary immigration status of the military member. Only the spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens – immediate relatives – can qualify to adjust status after being granted parole in place. If the military member is an LPR, the spouse, parent, or child would still benefit from parole in place by being granted permission to remain here and being eligible for employment authorization.
Does it matter if the applicant is inadmissible?
An applicant for parole in place does not have to show that she or he is not subject to the grounds of inadmissibility. However, while the grounds of inadmissibility do not apply, the grant of parole in place is discretionary. Therefore, criminal conduct, prior immigration violations, or other adverse factors that are revealed through the application process could affect the decision.
How does the family member apply for parole in place?
Applicants need to file the following:
- A completed Form I-131, Application for Travel Document with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Evidence of relationship to armed forces member
- Evidence of active duty membership or past membership in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Selected Reserve, or the Ready Reserve, such as copy of the service member’s military identification card (DD Form 1173)
- Two identical, color, passport style photographs
- Evidence of favorable discretionary factors (e.g. statement of hardship to the military service member, applicant’s participation in the community)
The application form and supporting documents should be sent to the USCIS district office having jurisdiction over the applicant’s address. The USCIS website (www.uscis.gov) contains a map of the district offices nationwide. There is no filing fee. The applicant will then receive an interview appointment for the taking of biometrics. Practitioners report that it is not necessary to present extensive evidence to support the favorable exercise of discretion absent a significant adverse factor to overcome.
What is the processing time?
The USCIS district offices have not reported the processing times for parole in place applications. Expect that it will take approximately three months to receive a decision. But the processing times will vary depending on the district office.
Is the grant of parole automatic?
No, the grant of parole is discretionary. However, the USCIS memo notes that being the spouse, parent or child of an individual who is on active duty in the military or is a veteran “ordinarily weighs heavily in favor of parole in place.” In addition, the memo notes that, absent a criminal conviction or other serious adverse factor, parole in place would generally be an appropriate exercise of discretion.
What about employment authorization?
After being granted parole, the applicant can request employment authorization under category (c)(11). Individuals who qualify to adjust status and are ready to apply upon approval of parole can request employment authorization in conjunction with the application for adjustment.
If granted, for how long is the parole and employment authorization valid?
The parole and employment authorization will each be valid for one year. The applicant will be allowed to apply for re-parole at the end of that period.
What if the application for parole in place is denied?
The USCIS memo does not address the issue of when enforcement might be pursued where an application for parole in place is denied. However, according to the November 2011 USCIS policy guidance, USCIS will refer an applicant to ICE for consideration of NTA issuance in cases involving certain criminal offenses, a statement of findings substantiating fraud, or a threat to public safety or national security.
Will everyone granted parole in place qualify to adjust status under INA § 245(a)?
If a person is an immediate relative – the spouse, unmarried child, or parent of a U.S. citizen – he or she is eligible to file for adjustment of status under INA § 245(a) after being “inspected, admitted, or paroled” into the United States. Those who entered the country illegally would satisfy that requirement if they are subsequently granted parole in place. Without the status of parole in place, many would have to depart the country and consular process, thus triggering the unlawful presence ground of inadmissibility. If a person is in one of the family-based preference categories – adult or married sons/daughters of U.S. citizens, siblings of U.S. citizens, and spouses or children of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) – he or she would likely not qualify for adjustment of status after being inspected, admitted, or paroled. This is because the person would also need to have always maintained lawful immigration status, pursuant to INA § 245(c). This restriction does not apply to immediate relatives.
How did the president’s executive action impact on parole in place?
A November 20, 2014 DHS memo directs USCIS to expand the parole in place program to encompass family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are not yet in the military but are seeking to enlist. The memo also instructs USCIS to consider making deferred action available to family members of U.S. military service members and veterans who don’t qualify for parole in place because they were inspected and admitted to the U.S., although now out of status. This would include, for example, family members who overstayed or violated a nonimmigrant visa status.
If a DAPA or DACA-eligible person is also eligible for parole in place, which benefit is better?
Parole in place provides very similar benefits as DAPA and DACA. They all allow the person to reside in the United States without fear of removal and to work legally. DAPA and DACA provide for three years of status and employment authorization, while parole in place must be renewed every year. But if the main purpose of applying for one of these programs is to qualify to adjust status, then the person should simply apply for parole in place. If that is granted, it would not be necessary to also apply for DAPA or DACA and then seek advance parole.