Closing the Immigration Gap Dividing Military Families

Serving in the military is tough enough as it is. The good men and women of our armed forces often face long periods of separation from their loved ones. Some service members must bear the additional hardship of supporting family members with visa complications which affect their ability to remain in the United States and apply for a green card. Good policy dictates that our soldiers should be focused on protecting our nation's interests instead of fearing that their family members may be deported at any time.

Through a policy memorandum issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on November 15, 2013, spouses, children and parents of active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces, reservists, and all veterans are now eligible to apply for an immigration benefit known as "parole in place." Parole in place is not exactly new. It is an act of discretion, to be applied sparingly, on the part of our government to permit persons present in the United States who entered without being inspected and admitted by an immigration official to overcome two grounds of inadmissibility and receive their green card.

First, the approval of an application for parole in place allows certain family members of the military to be deemed "admissible" for purposes of adjusting their status to that of a lawful permanent resident within the United States. The grant of parole also satisfies a second requirement for obtaining a green card which is that the applicant have been "inspected and admitted or paroled." With these two hurdles removed, family members -- assuming they meet the other requirements for adjustment of status, and, except for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and other exempt persons, have maintained lawful status in the United States -- can be eligible to adjust their status.

The new policy memorandum is laudable in two respects. First, it demonstrates the government's humane treatment of the brave men and women who guard our country's interests. Second, it shows that the government is capable of being flexible in analyzing the laws for the greater good of the American people.

Before the Obama Administration's November 15, 2013 announcement, certain spouses, children and parents of active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces, reservists, and veterans who dreamed of immigrating had to leave the United States in order to apply for an immigrant visa abroad -- and in the process, trigger a 3 or 10 year bar to reentry. Happily, that is no longer the only option I must offer my clients.

Timothy D. Widman is aSan Jose Immigration Attorney and the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman.

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