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Biden will open path for illegal immigrants married to US citizens to gain citizenship

Biden will open path for illegal immigrants married to US citizens to gain citizenship

President Joe Biden is expected to unveil a new program that will give a path to citizenship for people who are illegally in the United States but are married to Americans.

A source familiar with Biden’s plans said the president will announce the new program at a White House event on Tuesday to mark the 12-year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program shields some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children from deportation and provides them with legal work authorization.

According to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the plan late Monday, it could benefit as many as 500,000 American families in so-called “mixed-status” marriages in which one parent is not present in the US legally.

“This new process will help certain non citizen spouses and children apply for lawful permanent residence status that they are already eligible for without leaving the country and potentially putting themselves in harm’s way. This action could protect approximately half a million American families and approximately 50,000 non citizen children under the age of 21 whose parent is married to a US citizen,” they said.

The official also said Biden will announce new actions to “facilitate the employment visa process for those who have graduated from college and have a high skilled job offer,” including for people who currently benefit from the DACA program.

“These measures show that the administration is committed to taking action within its legal authorities to secure our border and ensure that our immigration system is more fair and more just,” the official added.

The spouses of Americans have always been eligible to become US citizens themselves, but people who did not enter the US legally but later married a US national have long had roadblocks that make it more difficult compared to those who entered legally.

President Biden is expected to unveil a new regulation allowing undocumented spouses of Americans to apply for legal residency.
President Biden is expected to unveil a new regulation allowing undocumented spouses of Americans to apply for legal residency. (AFP via Getty Images)

Anyone who enters the country illegally, absent other relief, must leave the US and remain abroad for a full decade before they are eligible for a legal pathway to residency and citizenship – even if they married an American after entering the country.

But the Biden plan would make use of an executive authority known as parole, which allows the government to set aside an illegal entry and grant work permits and residency status.

Eventually, undocumented immigrants married to Americans who receive relief through parole would be able to apply for permenant resident status, and later, US citizenship, by virtue of their marriage to a US citizen who would serve as their sponsor.

A Department of Homeland Security official said the new program for spouses of Americans would only apply to those who’ve been present in the country for a decade as of June 17, 2024. No one who entered the country after June 17, 2014 would be eligible.

The DHS official said the president’s actions “will advance our country’s interest in keeping American families together, while ensuring anyone known to pose a threat to public safety cannot take part in our immigration system.”


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