On June 18th, 2024 the Biden administration’s announced executive actions attempt to remedy for certain American families that include an undocumented, long-term resident of the U.S.

Through a newly announced Department of Homeland Security (DHS) process, undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens who have been in the U.S. for a decade or longer will be able to apply for a legal avenue to eventually adjust their immigration status and become lawful permanent residents without ever leaving the U.S.

In addition, the Administration has extended Affordable Care Act coverage to DACA recipients and streamlined, expanded, and instituted new reunification programs so that families can stay together while they complete the immigration process.

“President believes in expanding lawful pathways and keeping families together, and that immigrants who have been in the United States for decades, paying taxes and contributing to their communities, are part of the social fabric of our country.”[1]

Let us discuss key terms of new Presidential actions to keep families together:

  1. Keeping American Families Together

The Department of Homeland Security will take action to ensure that U.S. citizens with noncitizen spouses and children can keep their families together.

This new process will help certain noncitizen spouses and children apply for lawful permanent residence – status that they are already eligible for without leaving the country.

        In order to be eligible, noncitizens must – as of June 17, 2024 – have resided in the United States for 10 or more years and be legally married to a U.S. citizen, while satisfying all applicable legal requirements. On average, those who are eligible for this process have resided in the U.S. for 23 years.

Those who are approved after DHS’s case-by-case assessment of their application will be afforded a three-year period to apply for permanent residency. They will be allowed to remain with their families in the United States and be eligible for work authorization for up to three years.

Under current law, noncitizens married to a U.S. citizen may apply for lawful permanent residence through their marriage to a U.S. citizen. However, to apply for lawful permanent residence, many noncitizens must first depart the United States and wait to be processed abroad, resulting in a prolonged, potentially indefinite, period of separation from their U.S. citizen family members and causing tremendous hardship to all concerned. Moreover, process that can also trigger years long or indefinite bars restricting their return and reunification with family.  

  1. Let us  take a detailed look on the eligibility to the Program, for qualified undocumented spouses. The qualified undocumented spouses MUST:  
  2. Be in the U.S. without having been admitted or paroled by federal officials; 
  3. Have remained stateside for at least a decade by June 17, 2024;  
  4. Be legally married to an American citizen as of June 17, 2024;  
  5. Not have any disqualifying criminal history;  
  6. Not be deemed a threat to national security or public safety; and 
  7. Deserve a favorable exercise of discretion.  
  8. The program is expected to use the parole in place authority — previously employed mostly to support military families — so that approved applicants can live and work legally in the U.S. for up to three years while they pursue their green cards. Kids and young adults under 21 years old who are the stepchildren of U.S. citizens and whose undocumented parents may be eligible for the program could also qualify for the process.  

2. In order to be considered for parole, an individual will need to file a form with USCIS along with supporting documentation to show they meet the requirements and pay a fee.

Note: The information regarding eligibility and the application process, including a notice in the Federal Register, will be published in the near term. USCIS will reject any filings or individual requests received before the date when the application period begins later this summer.

3.Upon receipt of a properly filed parole in place request USCIS will determine on a case-by-case basis whether a grant of parole is warranted and whether the applicant merits a favorable exercise of discretion. All requests will take into consideration the potential requestor’s previous immigration history, criminal history, the results of background checks and national security and public safety vetting, and any other relevant information available to or requested by USCIS. USCIS has strong processes in place to identify and address potential fraud, which will be applied here to ensure the integrity of this program.

4.Noncitizens who pose a threat to national security or public safety will not be eligible for this process. If a noncitizen poses a threat to national security or public safety, DHS will detain, remove, or refer them to other federal agencies for further vetting, investigation, or prosecution as appropriate.

 DHS estimates that 500,000 noncitizen spouses of U.S. citizens could be eligible to access this process; on average, these noncitizens have resided in the United States for 23 years. Approximately 50,000 noncitizen children of these spouses are estimated to be eligible to seek parole under this process.

  1. Easing the Visa Process for U.S. College Graduates, Including Dreamers
  1. President Obama and then-Vice President Biden established the DACA policy to allow young people who were brought to the USA as children to come out of the shadows and contribute to our country in significant ways. Twelve years later, DACA recipients who started as high school and college students are now building successful careers and establishing families of their own.
  • The announcement will allow individuals, including DACA recipients and other Dreamers, who have earned a degree at an accredited U.S. institution of higher education in the United States, and who have received an offer of employment from a U.S. employer in a field related to their degree, to more quickly receive work visas.

3. Recognizing that it is in the national interest to ensure that individuals who are educated in the U.S. are able to use their skills and education to benefit the USA, the Administration is taking action to facilitate the employment visa process for those who have graduated from college and have a high-skilled job offer, including DACA recipients and other Dreamers.

4. The DHS will join the Department of State in an effort to more efficiently facilitate certain employment-based nonimmigrant visas for eligible individuals, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and undocumented noncitizens, who have graduated from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education. By clarifying and enhancing the existing process, the Department of State’s policy will give U.S. employers increased confidence that they can hire the talent they need, and that they will be able to quickly get to work. DHS will implement the Department of State’s policy update.

The policy change is expected to provide access to a much-needed legal pathway for around 245,000 Dreamers who came to the U.S. as minors.

  1. Aftermath: Overall, the policy has major implications for the U.S. public in general.

Once long-term undocumented family members are able to access green cards, they will likely also be eligible to naturalize within years. As U.S. citizens, they could contribute an additional $6.6 billion to the American economy and pay $2.6 billion more in taxes, according to an analysis by FWD.us.  

This article is provided for information purposes. Should you have any questions or be interested to learn more about this topic, contact Houston Immigration Attorney Claudine Umuhire Gasana at [email protected] or call us at 281-809-5599.

[1] JUNE 18, 2024: FACT SHEET: President Biden Announces New Actions to Keep Families Together