Biden Plan to Grant Deportation Relief for Immigrant Spouses of U.S. Citizens


In a significant move, the Biden administration announced a plan to grant work authorization and deportation relief to undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens. According to DHS, the program will eventually provide a path for applicants to apply for permanent resident status (green card). This policy shift could impact hundreds of thousands of families currently living under the shadow of immigration uncertainty.

1.1 Million Undocumented Immigrants Have U.S. Citizen Spouses

According to, an immigration advocacy group, approximately 1.1 million undocumented immigrants are married to U.S. citizens. These individuals currently face significant legal hurdles due to their undocumented status, which affects their ability to work legally and exposes them to the risk of deportation. Under existing immigration law, many of these spouses are ineligible to apply for a green card, leaving them in a precarious legal situation despite their marital ties to American citizens. Typically, these individuals have entered the U.S. illegally without inspection by an immigration officer, which makes them ineligible to be legalized even though they are married to American citizens.

Program will Benefit Spouses and Step Children

The Biden Administration plans to grant these undocumented spouses "parole in place." Parole is an executive authority that would allow them to stay in the country temporarily without fear of deportation and enable them to obtain employment authoriziation. This initiative seeks to stabilize the lives of many mixed-status families, providing them with economic opportunities and reducing the constant fear of family separation due to deportation. This program will also confer benefits to step-children of U.S. citizens.  According to NPR, an estimated 500,000 undocumented spouses and 50,000 non-citizen stepchildren would qualify for this relief. 

Program Requirements

Not all undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens would qualify for this Biden plan.  To qualify for parole in place status, the applicant must have been present in the United States for at least 10 years as of June 17, 2024.  It is unclear if physical presense must be continuous at this point. Furthermore, the applicant must have been married to a U.S. citizen on or before June 17, 2024.  Individuals who pose a threat to national security or public safety will not be eligible for this process.  It should also be noted that an applicant who entered the United States legally may apply for permanent resident status through adjustment of status.  These applicants do not need to apply under Biden's parole program. 

Discretionary Adjudciation

According to DHS, this is a discretionary application and will be adjuducated on a case-by-case basis. 
DHS will take into consideration the applicant's previous immigration history, criminal history, the results of background checks and national security, and any other relevant information available to or requested by USCIS. Fraudulent applications will also be screened out of the process.  Individuals with a criminal record and those with serious immigration violations will likely not be eligible for the program. 

Program Rationale and Challenges

The rationale behind this potential policy shift is multifaceted. Advocates argue that providing legal status and work authorization to the spouses of U.S. citizens is not only a humane approach but also economically beneficial. Allowing these individuals to work legally can contribute to the economy and reduce the exploitation often associated with undocumented labor.

Moreover, supporters emphasize the importance of family unity. Keeping families together is a cornerstone of U.S. immigration policy, and providing relief to these spouses aligns with this principle. It also addresses the emotional and psychological toll that the threat of deportation imposes on families.

Challenges and Next Steps

 Implementation of the program is expected to start in late summer, after a formal publication of the details in the Federal Register.  Implementing such a program would not be without challenges.  Opponents of the program will argue such executive actions overstep legal boundaries, as immigration relief should be addressed through legislative channels. The executive branch's authority to grant broad immigration relief without congressional approval may face challenges in court.  Additionally, there would be logistical hurdles in processing and verifying the eligibility of a large number of applicants.  


The Biden administration's plan to grant work authorization and parole status to undocumented spouses and step-children of U.S. citizens represents a significant potential shift in immigration policy. While it promises to alleviate the hardships faced by many families, it also underscores the ongoing challenges of addressing immigration reform in a deeply divided political landscape.

(Immigration laws and policies change regularly.  If you have any questions regarding this article, please visit to schedule a legal consultation.)  


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