U.S. military family members who entered the U.S. illegally may now qualify to receive green cards and other US immigration benefits.
Foreigners who enter the U.S. illegally are prevented from obtaining green cards or other benefits. They must nearly always depart the U.S. and return legally on a visa.
Often, foreigners have been in the U.S. for years and so will likely trigger a 10 year bar upon departing from the US, married or not. There are very few exceptions that will allow a foreigner to remain in the U.S. and obtain a green card without the need to first return home reenter legally. See Entered the US Illegally.
According to a USCIS Policy Memorandum dated November 15, 2013, military personnel and military veterans may now seek to obtain green cards for family members in the US without the need for them to return to the home country, thereby triggering a bar upon departure. This means that military family members may obtain green cards while remaining in the US.
Which military members qualify to help foreign family members?
- Active Duty Members of the U.S. Armed Forces,
- Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, and
- Former Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve
U.S. Armed Forces are the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. All are either active duty (full-time), reserve & guard forces (usually work a civilian job, but can be called to full-time duty), and veterans and retirees.
Which foreign family members qualify to receive green cards?
- Spouses, minor unmarried children, and parents of military members.
As with all immigration matters, the USCIS has discretion whether or not to grant parole in place so that foreigners may obtain green cards. This is not a change in law, but a change in policy by the Obama administration. You definitely want to make sure the policy is still in force and understand its rules, so hiring an attorney at a reasonable cost to assist is important.
Often, US residents will consider joining the military in order to try and obtain immigration benefits for family members who entered the US illegally. An extreme example would be where a green card holder joins the military in order to immediately apply for US citizenship, then legalize the status of a foreign spouse and children in the US illegally.