A new bill has been introduced in the United States Senate that would make it easier for the family of service members on active duty to obtain permanent resident status in the U.S. without having to leave the country first in order to apply. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has reintroduced the Military Families Act, which would specifically instruct the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that immediate family of military on active duty would qualify to apply for a green card without leaving the United States. A current measure called “Parole in Place” already allows USCIS to grant parole for “urgent humanitarian reasons” making it possible for some military spouses to get their green card application processed while they remain in the U.S. However, until now this measure has been discretionary, meaning that it is left up to each particular USCIS office to decide whether they to make sure they are in compliance with this measure. Due to this, the measure is applied differently in different parts of the United States, according to immigration lawyers. Naturally, this uncertainty leads to the uncommon preoccupation and anguish of the spouses; in one particular case a service member that did two tours of duty in Iraq explains having spent much of the time abroad worrying about his wife who was in the U.S. illegally and whether she would be permitted to stay or be deported. To apply for a permanent resident status, his wife would have to go to a U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, a dangerous part of Mexico. Eventually the family’s lawyer told them about the Parole in Place legislation, and the military wife was able to remain in the United States and still get a green card. While this case proved successful, the lawyer says his clients in other parts of the country have found it nearly impossible to get the immigration authorities to use the same measure. If the new law passes, the USCIS could still deny green cards to spouses and family of active duty service members, but they would have to have good reasons for denial.
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