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What You Need To Know About The New Protections For Undocumented Spouses of U.S. Citizens

By June 18, 2024July 8th, 2024Immigration Policy, Trending

The Biden administration announced a plan to offer protection for noncitizen spouses of U.S. citizens.

Photo by Sarah Silbiger - Pool via CNP via ZUMA Press Wire
President Joe Biden, seen on January 5, 2003, recently announced a plan to protect undocumented spouses.
By June 18, 2024July 8th, 2024Immigration Policy, Trending

The Biden administration announced a plan to offer protection for noncitizen spouses of U.S. citizens.

President Joe Biden unveiled a plan Tuesday that aims to keep mixed-status families together. 

The program, known as “Parole in Place,” protects undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens, allowing eligible noncitizens to remain with their families as their permanent residency is being assessed.

Borderless explains who is eligible, and what this means for noncitizens.

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What does the program say?

The program is meant to allow a pathway for noncitizen spouses and children of U.S. citizens to receive lawful permanent resident status and obtain work authorization. Under previous law, noncitizens married to U.S. citizens were able to apply to become lawful permanent residents. However, they were required to leave the U.S. and wait for their application to be processed while in their home country and separated from their families. 

Under the new policy, eligible noncitizens can apply for lawful permanent residency without leaving the country. The Biden administration estimates the executive actions will protect around 500,000 spouses of U.S. citizens and around 50,000 noncitizen children under 21 who have parents married to a U.S. citizen. 

President Biden also plans to announce a separate initiative for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The Obama-era policy protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as minors. Now, more than a decade after the implementation of DACA, its recipients are pursuing careers and establishing lives of their own. 

Under the policy, DACA recipients could earn a work visa if they earned a degree at a U.S. institution and e received a job offer in a field related to their degree.

Who is eligible?

Noncitizens eligible for this program must have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years. They must have also had a legally valid marriage to a U.S. citizen, while living continuously in the country for 10 years as of June 17, 2024. 

How do I apply?

Individuals interested in the program can apply by filing a form with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form, which has yet to be made available, will include supporting documentation to prove they meet the eligibility requirements. 

USCIS will assess the applicant’s previous immigration history, criminal history, the results of background checks and any potential threats to national security and public safety. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will assess the application. If approved, applicants will have three years to apply for permanent residency. During this period, they will be eligible for work authorization for up to three years.

The DHS has said that more information about applicant eligibility and the overall process will be published “in the near term.” USCIS will be rejecting any individual requests it receives before the start of the application period later this summer.

How has the public reacted to this policy?

The Biden administration’s announcement of this policy comes just weeks after Biden signed an executive order shutting down the border, blocking asylum seekers from entering the United States. The order was met with backlash from immigrant rights advocates and politicians who criticized the policy for its resemblance to the Trump-era Muslim Travel ban in 2017, and his 2018 policy suspending the right for migrants to petition for asylum. 

“President Biden’s action to extend work permits for long-term immigrant spouses is morally right, economically sound and politically smark,” said executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition Rebecca Shi. “It will directly improve the lives of more than 10 million American citizens who have an undocumented family member. Today, those families, and the advocates fighting on their behalf, can breathe a huge sigh of relief.”

Elected officials praised the program, saying it would strengthen the U.S. economy while promoting family unity. 

“I want to commend President Biden for his executive action to protect qualifying mixed-status families and Dreamers,” said Illinois State Senator Karina Villa. “This measure is life-changing for those who have lived in the shadows, in constant fear while working to ensure our country prospers. It is a first step with an impact that is impossible to measure.”