Parole-in-Place for the Spouses of U.S. Citizens: President Biden’s Big New Immigration Initiative

By Patrick Taurel, Partner

On June 18, 2024, the Biden Administration announced a new policy intended to remove an obstacle many immigrants face in obtaining legal status. President Biden’s action proposes to grant parole-in-place to the undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens who have lived in the United States for over 10 years. Hundreds of thousands of people stand to benefit from this potentially life-changing development.

As a general matter, undocumented immigrants who entered the United States without authorization cannot obtain legal status in the United States. They must travel abroad to request an immigrant visa at a U.S. consular post. The hitch is that by traveling abroad, those who have been here for over a year without permission trigger a ten-year bar to re-entry. Parole-in-place eliminates the need for the would-be green card applicant to travel abroad, because it operates somewhat like a magic wand, converting a person from one who last entered without authorization to one who has been paroled. Under current law, the spouses of U.S. citizens who were paroled into the United States are eligible to apply for green cards stateside, provided they meet certain other requirements.

An estimated 10.5 million people (or 3% of the population) in the United States live as immigrants without status. Parole in Place intends to protect thousands of families at risk of being split apart by deportation measures. Instead of requiring the spouses of U.S. citizens to spend potentially lengthy periods of time abroad to legalize their status, under President Bident’s new policy, qualifying individuals will be allowed to remain in the United States.

The Biden Administration also announced a plan to ‘speed up’ work visa processes for highly skilled DACA recipients who have received job offers in their field of specialty, as long as they possess a degree from an accredited U.S. university. Details regarding this plan have not been revealed.
At this time, the Department of Homeland Security is not accepting applications for parole-in-place. DHS will publish guidance in the future regarding how this new program will be implemented.
It is foreseeable that many of the same States that have challenged previous immigrant-friendly Biden Administration policies will bring legal challenges to this new policy and that it will be tied up in the courts for months or years to come.