Imagine this scenario: Melanie enters the United States without a visa in 2009. In 2016 she marries Donnie, a U.S. citizen. Donnie is on active duty with the United States Marines. Typically, because she entered the U.S. without a visa, Melanie would be required to return to her home country to apply for an immigrant visa even though she is married to a U.S. citizen.
Under a program formalized by the Obama administration in 2013, however, Melanie may be able to file a petition in which she requests to be “paroled” into the United States. The catch is that this parole happens without her ever departing the United States. In essence, immigration officials are willing to pretend that she departs the United States and then returns with a visa. Once she is paroled into the United States, she is allowed to apply for adjustment of status (green card) within the United States. It’s a neat trick.
A parent of a U.S. citizen child who is over 21 can gain the same benefit. That is, parents who are in the U.S. but entered without a visa can be paroled into the United States when their over-21 child is or has been in the military.
The process is not automatic, so there is no guarantee that immigration officials will approve parole in every case. Plus, there are risks to the applicant, especially of the person has multiple unlawful entries, a criminal history, or has previously been ordered deported. However, if you are a U.S. citizen petitioner (spouse, parent, or over-21 child) who is in or has been in the U.S. military, it is worth exploring with an experienced immigration attorney. It can save the expense, stress, and uncertainty of returning to a person’s home country for consular processing.