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Military Law

A Section of the Virginia State Bar.

Military Law Newsletter - Spring 2011

Military Law News

PAROLE IN PLACE: Deportation Relief for Family Members of Service Men and Women

CPT Timothy Redmond

Noncitizens have served in the Armed Forces of the United States from the birth of our nation. Currently, approximately 35,000 non-U.S. citizens serve in the military, or about 1.4 percent. (1) Additionally, each year 8,000 new noncitizens enlist in our combined Armed Forces. (2) To become a service member, one typically either has to be a U.S. citizen or be a Long-term Permanent Resident (LPR). It is not likely that service members will have immigration problems of their own, but it is very often the case that there will be an immigration difficulty with someone in the service member’s family, to include spouse, children and parents. The immigration status often becomes very complicated and proves to be a severe hardship upon the service member, taking his or her mind off of the critical job of defending our country.

Most immigration law applies equally to military and civilian personnel, however there are unique circumstances in which military personnel can see their undocumented family members gain LPR status in situations where there is no civilian equivalent opportunity. This is the policy entitled Parole in Place (PIP).

Parole in Place is the process by which USCIS makes otherwise ineligible family members of active military personnel eligible to “adjust status” and thus become permanent residents of the United States. A PIP request is often proper for military spouses who entered the United States illegally, do not have an eligible visa petition or labor certification filed on or before April 30, 2001, and do not otherwise fall into a special adjustment category. (3)

A PIP request consists of a hardship letter signed by the service member and supporting documentation. The letter is typically addressed to the director of the local USCIS field office or, if the client has an ongoing case with USCIS, the office that has issued the most recent decision. This letter should either be written by you, or come with a supplemental cover letter from you that follows the below-listed formulation.

The opening paragraph of the hardship letter should state that this is a request for a Humanitarian Parole so that the particular family member can file an Application to Register permanent Residence or Adjust Status (I-485) while in the United States. The body of the letter should describe the circumstances that led the service member to join the armed forces. It should describe the history of his or her relationship with the family member seeking PIP. The conditions of the family member’s home country at the time he or she came to the U.S. should also be discussed, as well as the current conditions. You should also address the member’s loss of Commissary and PX privileges, military housing, access to health care, and assistance from the Family Readiness Group. You should then address the hardship not receiving the PIP will cause the service member and how it will affect his or her ability to do their job defending the country. Mention past deployments of the service member, awards and honors won as well as upcoming deployments. In a word, write the letter like an asylum or hardship cover letter.

Additionally, You will need to gather and get certified copies of many supporting documents. These will include at least the following:

1. Service member’s birth certificate

2. Family members’ birth certificate

3. Birth certificate of any children

4. If necessary the marriage certificate

5. Family member’s military ID

6. A copy of DEERS enrollment documents of family members

7. Two original passport photos of the family member

8. A copy of any deployment orders

You will also have to get all additional supporting documents to prove what the cover letter asserts.

Will your client get PIP? That is not certain, although the current policy is to grant PIP to family members of service men and woman.

If your request is granted, the client will receive a parole document, that is an I-94. You should now file an I-130 Relative Petition and an I-485 Application to Adjust Status along with a certified copy of the Parole document.

Parole in Place is a very powerful tool, both for the military and for the individual service members that it assists. The fact is there are a large number of service men and women who have wives, husbands, parents, in-laws, adoptive and step children who are illegally present in the United States. Giving these people a pathway to citizenship will open their futures up considerably, and it will expand your practice as well.


1 Anita U. Hattiangadi • Aline O. Quester, Non-citizens in Today’s Military: Final Report, CAN, Alexandria, VA (2005).

2 Julia Preston, U.S. Military Will Offer Path to Citizenship, New York Times, Feb. 15, 2009, at A1.

3 Because Parole in Place requests ar not automatically granted, the benefits and risks of making a request need to be discussed with the client.