The Obama administration will allow some relatives of U.S. service members living in the country illegally to stay, according to a policy directive issued Friday.

The nine-page memorandum is the latest in a series of immigration policy changes made by President Barack Obama since he took office. The department has long had the power to stop deportations for relatives of military members and veterans, but Friday’s memo lays out how and when it can be used.

The latest order gives U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials the power to “parole in place” immigrant spouses, children and parents of current U.S. service members, reservists and veterans. The change means that those immigrants can apply to legally live in the United States.

Margaret D. Stock, an Alaska-based immigration attorney and retired Army reserve lieutenant colonel, said the latest directive would likely impact thousands of military families. “It is very significant,” Stock said. “It will ease the strain on so many families and military members.”

Obama’s changes initially were broad and controversial. He instructed the government to use its discretion to find and deport only the most serious criminals. Then in mid-2012, he announced a plan to offer young immigrants in the country illegally a reprieve from deportation and work permits for at least two years.

Now, as it appears less likely that Congress will change immigration laws, the White House is chipping away at the edges with relative minor procedural changes.

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