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Biden Announces Legal Protections for Undocumented Spouses of U.S. Citizens

The policy under consideration is known as "parole in place"

Jun 19, 2024

President Biden talks about immigration

The Biden administration announced Tuesday a new policy that will grant temporary legal status and a potential path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens. The policy, which would use the immigration parole authority, will provide work permits and deportation protections for these individuals.

What does the policy say?

The policy, known as “parole in place (PIP),” would allow undocumented immigrants who have American citizen spouses to receive temporary work permits and legal status. It would also allow them to navigate around certain U.S. legal obstacles that currently prevent them from obtaining permanent residency if they entered the country illegally. By obtaining parole in place, these individuals could eventually qualify for green cards and, later, U.S. citizenship without needing to leave the country.

According to the White House, the move will protect roughly half a million spouses of U.S. citizens and around 50,000 undocumented children under 21 whose parent is married to a U.S. citizen.

Who is eligible?

  • You must be legally married to a U.S. citizen
  • You must have lived in the United States for at least 10 years as of June 17, 2024. According to the White House, the majority of people eligible for these protections have resided in the U.S. for 23 years or more.
  • You must not have disqualifying criminal convictions and must not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
  • You must pass background checks and be approved based on your personal situation.

Boundless can help you adjust your status after your Parole in Place is approved.

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Process and requirements

Once approved, recipients will have three years to apply for permanent residency through the Parole in Place (PIP) program and will be eligible for work authorization during this time.

Once undocumented spouses go through the PIP program, they will receive an I-94 travel record. This record is crucial because it makes them eligible to adjust their status to a marriage-based green card.

The process is expected to be similar to the current military PIP program. These cases are typically processed quickly, and most beneficiaries can immediately file the I-485 application to adjust their status to a green card holder after parole is granted.

To be considered on a case-by-case basis for a discretionary grant of parole in place, an individual must:

  • Be present in the United States without admission or parole.
  • Have been continuously present in the United States for at least 10 years as of June 17, 2024.
  • Have a legally valid marriage to a current U.S. citizen as of June 17, 2024.
  • Submit biographic and biometric information to USCIS for screening and vetting purposes.

Impact and Scope

Progressive lawmakers and immigrant advocacy groups have praised the policy as a positive step that could energize Latino voters ahead of the upcoming elections. However, the plan is expected to face legal challenges. The Biden administration has previously been hit with lawsuits over its use of the parole authority, and there is precedent for judicial pushback; in 2016, a deadlocked Supreme Court prevented a similar Obama-era initiative.

Despite potential legal hurdles, the Biden administration has used the immigration parole authority extensively, including for resettling refugees from Afghanistan, Haiti, and Ukraine. The new plan would leverage the same authority to provide relief for those already living in the U.S.

Historical Context and Precedents

The concept of parole in place is not entirely new. Since the Bush administration, a smaller-scale version of this program has existed for immediate relatives of U.S. military members. Congress affirmed this policy in 2020. The proposed expansion would be the most extensive relief for undocumented immigrants since the 1986 amnesty law that legalized 2.7 million people.

What to expect next

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to publish an official notice that explains the application process, additional guidance and requirements, and the implementation timeline.

The notice will also explain what specific forms to file, the costs of filing those forms, required documentation and supporting evidence needed for approval.

The actual application process is expected to open up later this summer.


USCIS will reject any filings received before the date when the application process is officially open.

For more info, Boundless has put together a guide on immigration parole.

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