U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) led the Senate on the eve of Veterans Day in passing a bill to help deployed service members and their spouses who are being unintentionally prevented from finalizing their green card application process because of military service abroad. On Thursday evening, the Senators secured passage by voice vote of H.R. 398, the House version of their Senate bill (S. 1808) already introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-16). Senate passage of the House bill means that it will be cleared for President Obama to sign into law as soon as next week.
Currently, aliens who marry a U.S. citizen or permanent resident can obtain permanent residency themselves after a two-year waiting period. In the 90 days before the end of those two years, both spouses must jointly sign a petition for permanent residency and appear for an in-person interview. Members of the armed forces who are deployed during that 90-day window are often unable to return to the United States to fulfill that requirement. H.R. 398 and S.1808 would delay the start of that 90-day window until after a service member has completed his or her deployment.
"The men and women serving abroad in our nation's armed forces have enough to worry about without having this unintended bureaucratic nightmare added to the list," Senator Coons said. "This is an easy fix, but an important one. I'm glad my Senate colleagues came together today to acknowledge that a military deployment should not be a barrier to accessing the rights and privilege our service members are fighting to protect."
"Our men and women in uniform continue to serve our nation with honor and distinction," Senator Graham said. "I was proud to be part of the effort to fix a bureaucratic problem facing some of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines."
Senator Graham is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Coons is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.