Undocumented, married to permanent resident in military: Will “parole in place” get me a green card?

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Question:

I heard that there’s a new policy that helps undocumented foreign-born people who are living in the U.S. to get a green card, if they are married or close family with someone serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. My wife is posted overseas with the army right now, and I’m living in the U.S. with no papers, having crossed the border from Mexico. We have two young U.S. citizen children in school, whom I take care of. My wife is also an immigrant, but she has her green card. Is there anything I can do to get legal?

Answer:

The new policy that you heard of is called “parole in place” or PIP, and it unfortunately won’t help you right away. It is designed to allow the undocumented, immediate family of U.S. citizens to have their unlawful entry and stay in the U.S. overlooked, so that they can immediately apply for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence).

The policy cannot help the spouses of permanent residents who are currently undocumented, because of other provisions of the law. If, however, you are able to remain in the U.S. until your wife becomes a U.S. citizen, you likely would be able to apply for PIP. Your wife should definitely check out Nolo’s article, “U.S. Citizenship Rights for U.S. Military Personnel and Veterans,” and apply for U.S. citizenship as soon as she is eligible. (And in case something happens to her, you should also read “U.S. Immigration Rules for Military Family Members.”)

For further advice on how to apply for parole in place if and when the time comes, see Nolo’s article “Adjustment of Status Via "Parole in Place" for Family Members of U.S. Citizens in Military.” You might also wish to consult an experienced immigration attorney for a full analysis of your options and best strategy.

Also, if during your wait you are arrested by U.S. immigration authorities, your family ties to the U.S. mean that you might be able to benefit from something called “prosecutorial discretion.” It won’t get you a green card, but it will at least protect you from removal (deportation).

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