This is a step-by-step overview of how non-citizen family members of U.S. military members and veterans can apply for something called "parole in place" in order to then apply for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence).
The U.S. government allows non-citizen spouses, widows, widowers, parents, sons, and daughters of U.S. military members and veterans to apply for parole in place (PIP). It’s not a separate immigration status, but it can be helpful in gaining status. If the only reason that you do not qualify to adjust status (apply for and receive a green card while in the U.S.) is that you entered the U.S. without a visa or lawful entry, being granted parole in place will allow you to move ahead with your application.
You might have seen headlines about how some of President Trump’s proposed executive orders have made the future of parole in place uncertain. PIP was created by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2013. In the same way USCIS created the program, it can take it away at any time.
For now, however (as of mid-2020), parole in place remains available.
If you are in the U.S. unlawfully, being granted PIP would allow you to stay in the U.S. for a certain amount of time. USCIS will not count the time you spend in the U.S. with PIP as unlawful presence. Additionally, having PIP allows you to apply to USCIS for a work permit (employment authorization document or EAD). And, because people can typically apply for a green card only if they entered the U.S. with a visa or parole document, being granted PIP also allows you to apply for a green card if you are otherwise eligible.
You are PIP-eligible if you entered the U.S. unlawfully and are the spouse, widow, widower, son, or daughter of a person who is:
Start your parole in place application by completing and signing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. In part 2 of the application, instead of selecting one of the checkboxes under “Application Type,” you will write in “Military Parole in Place” or “Military PIP.”
You will also need to obtain two passport-type photographs of yourself.
Next, you will gather documents to prove you are related to a current or former military member. Start this process by proving your family relationship.
If your spouse is in the military, use your marriage certificate and documents proving that any prior marriages have legally ended. If your parent, son, or daughter is the military member, gather evidence to prove the parent-child relationship, such as a birth certificate listing the parent.
Remember that if a document is not in English, you must also provide an English translation.
To show USCIS that you are related to a military member, you can submit a copy of the military member’s military identification card, your identification and privilege card, proof of enrollment in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (sometimes referred to as DEERS or Tricare), the military member’s enlistment paperwork, copies of orders, or a letter from the military member’s commanding officer.
You can also send any additional evidence that you would like USCIS to consider even if it's not required. For example, the military member could write a letter explaining how he or she would be affected if you were not given PIP. If you have a criminal history, you could submit evidence of rehabilitation, such as counseling or course certificates (but definitely get a lawyer's help if you have crimes on record; they could bar you from green card eligibility). If a family member has previously filed an I-130 petition for you with USCIS, you can submit a copy of the receipt or approval notice. The types of additional evidence you should submit will depend on your situation.
You must mail all of these documents to the USCIS field office that handles cases in your area. Keep in mind that some USCIS field offices require more information than what's listed as the minimum above. For example, many require you to submit evidence of any past convictions, a written statement describing how you entered the U.S., or proof that an I-130 petition has been filed for you.
Because of the variation in USCIS field office requirements, you might want to consult a local attorney to help you.
If granted PIP, you will receive a letter from USCIS that includes an I-94 card. This card will have an expiration date (usually one year away) and is proof that you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for that time. It is very important that you keep this card safe, because it's proof of both your status and of possible eligibility for other benefits.
For example, you might now be able to apply to USCIS for a work permit. And as described above, if the only reason you could not apply for a green card previously was because you entered the U.S. unlawfully, you might also be able to go ahead and apply for a green card.