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US Immigration Rules for Military Family Members

The U.S. government recognizes that military service requires commitment and sacrifice. We also know that a strong family support system can help a service member focus on the mission. Among the ways the U.S. government supports service members and their families is by extending certain immigration rules to close relatives who are natives of other countries.

If you are an immediate family member of a veteran or member of the active-duty forces, Guard or reserves, you may qualify for one or more of these benefits.

Parole in place

Parole in place allows certain family members who came to the U.S. illegally (without being inspected by an immigration officer at the border), to apply to stay in the country for one year.

This immigration regulation allows you to stay in the U.S. while applying for an immigrant visa. Ordinarily, you would have to leave the U.S. to interview for and receive an immigrant visa at the U.S. consulate in your home country.

To request parole in place, you must submit the following to the United States Citizenship and Immigration office:

  • Completed Form I-131, Application for Travel Document; handwrite “Military PIP” in Part 2 instead of checking a box
  • Evidence of the family relationship, such as:
    • Marriage certificate
    • Documentation of termination of previous marriage
    • Son or daughter’s birth certificate
    • Military member’s birth certificate with parent’s name
    • Proof of enrollment in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System
  • Evidence that your family member is a current or former member of the U.S. armed forces, such as a photocopy of the front and back of the service member’s military identification card or DD Form 214
  • Two identical, color passport-style photographs
  • Evidence of any additional favorable discretionary factors that you would like considered

Parole in place is not available to people who overstayed a U.S. visa. It is granted on a case-by-case basis and expires after one year. You may reapply for one-year stays as long as you remain eligible.

Overseas naturalization

Ordinarily, you must live in the U.S. for a certain number of years before being eligible to apply for citizenship. However, if your spouse is a service member stationed outside the country, you may count the period you accompany your spouse overseas as time living in the U.S. You can apply for citizenship while overseas as well.

To qualify, you must:

  • Be a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.
  • Be authorized to accompany your spouse outside the U.S. by your spouse’s official orders
  • Live with your spouse as a married couple
  • Meet the requirements of either section 316(a) or 319(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act at the time you file your naturalization application

Overseas naturalization also applies to the children of service members stationed overseas.

Citizenship and permanent residence for surviving family members of military members

You may be eligible for certain immigration benefits, including citizenship if your close family member was a U.S. citizen and died from combat-related injuries while on active duty.

The spouse, children under age 21 and parents of a U.S. citizen who died during honorable military service can apply for citizenship right away. Requirements include:

  • Being a lawful permanent resident
  • Meeting other general naturalization requirements except for the residence or physical presence requirements in the U.S.
  • Having lived with your service member spouse at the time of death unless you lived apart because of circumstances beyond your control, such as the spouse’s military service

Family members who do not have lawful permanent resident status may apply for a green card as the immediate relative of the deceased service member. The petition must be filed within two years of the service member’s death.

To learn more about immigration regulations and citizenship benefits for close family members of service members, visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Military OneSource is another helpful resource available to service members, their spouses and children. This free service from the Department of Defense offers information, answers and support. Call 800-342-9647 to connect with a consultant. OCONUS/international? Find calling options here.

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