The U.S. Department of Homeland Security formalized Friday a temporary permit for undocumented immigrants to remain in the country if they are the direct family of military personnel on active duty, reservists or veterans.

The permit, known as "parole in place," has been awarded since 2010 when it was approved by then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Friday's announcement made the procedure official.

A DHS official told Efe that the permit extends to the children, father, mother and spouse of either an active member of the Armed Forces, a reservist or a veteran.

"The Department of Homeland Security is dedicated to helping families of the military navigate through our complex immigration system," Peter Boogaard, a spokesman for that department, told Efe.

Parole in place permits, the spokesman said, "reduce the uncertainty that our soldiers on active duty and retired military personnel face due to the immigrant status of their family members."

The permits are awarded case by case, with extensions of one year at a time, while the undocumented immigrants with a family member in the Armed Forces can apply for residency without first leaving the country.

Once the permit expires, the immigrant returns to his or her previous immigration status. The spokesman gave no figures or estimates as to how many people have benefited from parole in place since 2010.

Latinos, who make up almost 17 percent of the U.S. population, represent almost 11.5 percent of the military on active duty, or more than 157,000 men and women.

"The permits are awarded for urgent humanitarian reasons or for a significant public benefit, and allow foreigners to remain in the United States legally for a limited period," Boogaard said. EFE