Parole-in-Place and Deferred Action: Options for Military Families

The federal government has made available two immigration options for family members of military personnel: Parole-in-Place and Deferred Action. These policies were set to aid those serving in the United States military by protecting eligible family members who reside in the United States. These policies can help family members of military service personnel obtain an authorized stay, work authorization, and in some instances, apply for Adjustment of Status.

Parole-in-Place (aka “PIP) is available for spouses, parents, sons, and daughters of United States Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents enrolled in the U.S. Military. Additionally, PIP is also available to family members of previous military personnel who are now deceased and for sons and daughters over 21 and married. In addition to biological children born in wedlock, PIP is available to stepchildren, adopted children, orphans, and children born out of wedlock.

While in regular family-based petitions, a child must be at least 21 years old and a U.S. Citizen to petition their parent, this is not the case for PIP. For PIP, a child can also be a Lawful Permanent Resident for their parent to submit a request for PIP. Moreover, there is no minimum age requirement for the son or daughter for a parent to qualify for PIP. Therefore, the parents of a nineteen-year-old lawful permanent resident serving in the U.S. military can be eligible for PIP.

PIP applies equally to same-sex marriages and marriages where both spouses are transgender. Widows and Widowers of a U.S. Military member or veteran can also be granted PIP, so long as they prove they resided in the United States at the service member’s death.

  • PIP is generally granted for a period of 1 year.
  • An individual may qualify for PIP if they: are physically present in the United States; we’re not previously “admitted”; are the spouse, parent, son, or daughter of an active duty member of the U.S. Armed, the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, or former member of the U.S. Armed Forces or Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve (including individuals who served in the military but are now deceased); AND do not have a criminal conviction or another severe adverse factor.
  • A grant of PIP is discretionary, and people have been granted parole in cases where they have contact with law enforcement. For example, USCIS had granted PIP when the applicant was convicted of a DUI. USCIS stated that positive factors should be submitted with the application when the applicant has a criminal history. USCIS will request a certified copy of the criminal disposition in this case.
  • Since the statute limits access to parole to those who have not been admitted, people who were lawfully admitted at a port of entry, like with a tourist visa, student visa, or border crossing card, will not be able to apply for parole in the United States because they are no longer using for admission.

Active Duty Member of the U.S. Armed Forces includes the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Active duty has a full-time commitment in active military service, full-time training, annual training, attendance while in active military service, at a service school (designated by law), and active duty in a non-combatant capacity. Though the National Guard is included in the definition of the armed forces, active duty does not seem to have full-time National Guard duty since personnel is described as “Active Status,” and PIP calls explicitly for “Active Duty.”

Only selected reserve of the ready resource is considered active-duty members. Individuals currently enrolled in Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (“MAVNI”) program, who are not now on active duty but are enrolled in Delayed Entry Program (“DEP”), cannot utilize PIP until they are on active duty, but are eligible for deferred action.

Deferred Action for Family Members of Military Personnel: Deferred action is an alternative program available to some family members of military personnel who are not eligible for PIP. Deferred action is primarily known for qualifying family members who had a lawful admission into the country (i.e., inspected by an immigration official) but have fallen out of status. Deferred action can also be accessed by family members of military personnel who are not on active duty, like those in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) or the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program are awaiting basic training.

Deferred action grants similar benefits to PIP. Family members receive authorized stay, work authorization, and the ability to renew. These benefits are awarded for two years. While Deferred action does not give a grantee an “admission” or “paroled,” family members who entered the country with a visa (were lawfully admitted) may meet the threshold admission requirement to apply for permanent residency.

An applicant will have to meet the following requirements to be eligible for deferred action:

  1. The individual is the spouse, parent, son, or daughter (any age, married or unmarried) of a selected reserve of the ready resource (whether still living or deceased), previously served on active duty in the U.S. Military, or the selected addition of the Ready Reserve and was not dishonorably discharged and was lawfully admitted into the United States.
  2. Is the family member of an individual who has signed a contract with the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) for a maximum of 365 days while awaiting Basic Training, including MAVNI recruits (even if they have fallen out of status); AND
  3. Fits the guidelines for parole under section 21.1(c)(1) except for being statutorily ineligible because of prior admission.

USCIS will make a case-by-case discretionary decision based on the totality of the evidence and will weigh and balance all relevant considerations, both positive and negative when deciding. Deferred action can be a valuable option for people who do not meet the requirements of PIP because they were inspected and admitted at entry, and their relative is not yet on active duty.

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