Parole in Place (PIP) is a process by which spouses of members of the U.S. military -- including National Guard and Reserves and veterans -- can adjust status to permanent residents even if they would otherwise be ineligible due to unlawful entry. This requires some explanation and qualification. First, what is the problem being addressed? Contrary to what some people think, someone is not allowed to get permanent resident status (sometimes called a "green card") just because they are married to a U.S. citizen.
Even if an alien has a U.S. citizen spouse as a sponsor, he or she may still be ineligible for adjustment of status if they are subject to one or more of the bars. There are a number of such bars, such as health-related grounds, criminal history, or prior immigration violations. One of the most common bars is someone who entered the country "without being admitted or paroled." An admission is when someone is legally allowed in to the country by a government official at a land, sea, or air port. A parole is much less common. It is when someone is physically allowed to enter the country but is not legally "admitted." Anybody who did not enter the country in one of these two ways, such as someone who sneaked across the border, is ineligible to adjust -- even if the illegal entry was many years ago and even if he marries a U.S. citizen.
Normally, the only solution to this problem is for the alien to return to his home country and re-enter the country so he has a legal entry. However, this departure triggers a separate bar -- for unlawful presence. To overcome this bar, he must apply for a waiver at the U.S. embassy or consulate. This is difficult and fraught with risk. The alien must show that his absence will cause an extreme hardship to his U.S. citizen spouse (or parent). He faces the risk that his waiver application is rejected, in which case he not only fails to get his green card but is now stranded outside the U.S. There is a new process for a provisional unlawful presence waiver which alleviates some of this risk for some people, but that is too big of a topic to delve into in this post.
For spouses of military personnel, there is an even better option, called Parole in Place (PIP). Under this program, the alien spouse can ask to be "paroled" into the U.S. If granted, the alien can now apply for adjustment of status even if she unlawfully entered since she has now been "admitted or paroled." Additionally, this parole is granted "in place", meaning the alien can stay in the U.S. So, this is a great program for undocumented aliens who marry someone in the armed forces. Not everyone qualifies and its important to fully understand your case before proceeding. For example, it must be a legal marriage and it must be to a U.S. citizen (not permanent resident).
Additionally, there can be no other grounds of inadmissibility, such as unlawful presence, previous deportation, material misrepresentation, or criminal- or health-related grounds of inadmissibility. Also, it's important to remember that this relief is discretionary; even someone who is not ineligible can be denied as a matter of discretion. If you think you may qualify for this program, contact the San Antonio office of Salmon-Haas for a free consultation.