Like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for young immigrants who arrived illegally as children, the Obama Administration has launched a similar program for spouses (both heterosexual as well as same sex), children, and parents of active duty members of armed forces, reservists, and military veterans.
So what does this program do? Basically, if you are in the United States undocumented, you get to legalize your status in form of a parole-in-place. This will be for one year at a time but can be renewed indefinitely. With this parole, you will get a work permit, your very own Social Security number, and will now be able to apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence or green card.
How much will this cost? Nothing. Free. Simply because this is the least the country can do to thank those who are willing to put their lives on the line.
How does this help you? If you simply overstayed a visa, adjustment of status has been easier for family members of US citizens. However, if you entered without inspection (EWI) meaning that you simply crossed the border illegally, the process requires leaving the United States, even if you have a waiver through the USCIS Form I601A. By getting this parole, the green card process can be completed without leaving the United States.
What will the USCIS investigate? Like any other immigration application, the USCIS will conduct a background check on each applicant. Generally, a felony convictions will lead to rejection of application but up to three misdemeanors may not matter that much. If you have any criminal background, do not even think about applying on your own, because not only will your application be rejected, you will be put in deportation proceedings.
How to apply?
- Unless money is extremely tight, don't try the DIY approach. Get a decent attorney (no need for a top lawyer because the paperwork is simple and any immigration attorney should know how to complete the forms).
- Put together a package containing USCIS Form I-131, copy of the evidence of relationship with the serviceman or woman (e.g. marriage/birth certificates), copy of both sides of the service member's military ID card, and two passport style photographs. Mail these to the Director of USCIS office depending on the state you live in. Wait for a few months and you will get the parole approval. You can then start the green card process.