A 90-year-old World War II Royal Air Force veteran who faced a 10-year ban from re-entering the U.S. because he once overstayed a 90-day visa will be reunited with his family in New Jersey after all, FoxNews.com has learned.
John Oliver — who lives in the Bailiwick of Jersey, the largest of England’s Channel Islands — will be permitted to enter the U.S. as early as June on a “humanitarian parole,” according to his family.
Oliver — a World War II bomber navigator-turned-corporate accountant — was banned from re-entering the U.S. for the next decade because he overstayed a 90-day visa issued in 2011, when his wife was dying and doctors recommended the couple remain under the care of their 61-year-old son in New Jersey.
Expand / Contract
Following a Sept. 14 FoxNews.com story on the ordeal, lawmakers — including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Gov. Chris Christie — pressured the State Department to make an exception in Oliver’s case.
Six months later, the State Department sent a letter dated March 3 to Oliver’s son, Robert, an American citizen, in which it said the older Oliver will be granted a conditional parole, renewable every two years.
“We are so happy and relieved,” Robert Oliver of Vernon, N.J., told FoxNews.com Thursday.
“What happened to us is not unique by any stretch of the imagination,” Oliver said. “It’s heartbreaking. Thank goodness English is our first language.”
The family’s ordeal began in October 2011 when Robert Oliver flew to the Bailiwick of Jersey to bring his father and sickly mother stateside to New Jersey, where he lives with his fiancée, Mary Bradley.
“What happened to us is not unique by any stretch of the imagination.”
– Robert Oliver
Shortly after the family arrived, the health of Oliver’s mother, Betty, rapidly deteriorated, requiring 24-hour care. At the same time, Oliver and his fiancée were working tirelessly to secure green cards for the elderly couple. The Olivers had planned to leave the U.S. at the end of their three-month visa but doctors said Betty — who was suffering from severe osteoporosis and liver problems — would not survive the trip home.
“All along, with speaking with immigration [officials], they were assuring me that this was such an easy case. ‘Not to worry, not to worry,'” Mary Bradley told FoxNews.com in September. “I just followed the system and filled out the forms they asked for.”
When Betty Oliver suffered a stroke in June 2012, Robert Oliver and his fiancée notified immigration officials that the two had overstayed their visa and explained the circumstances.
“At no point did it even cross our mind that this man should leave the country and leave his wife,” Bradley said. “She [Betty] was so dependent on him. They were married for nearly 70 years.”
In November 2012, Betty Oliver died while in hospice care in New Jersey. At that point, Oliver and Bradley turned their efforts to securing a green card for John Oliver, whose health was also declining. They filed forms with the State Department, Homeland Security and its immigration enforcement arm, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. The applications were denied, the couple said.
The rejections infuriated Oliver and Bradley, who wrote a message to President Obama through the White House website about the family’s plight. Bradley said she received a response in January 2014 from the president in the form of a generic-looking letter, with links to the administration’s immigration policy as well as to websites for USCIS and ICE, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”Thank you for writing,” Obama’s letter began. “America’s immigration system is badly broken, and I know many people are hurting because of it.”
The elderly Oliver had paid U.S. taxes on his English pension during his time in the States. He also spent $70,000 of his life savings to pay for his wife’s medical expenses, which only increased the couple’s anger.
Robert Oliver said he was advised by immigration officials to travel to the U.S. Embassy in London with his father to address the issue in person. Father and son boarded a flight for their appointment on Oct. 25, 2013 — which proved to be a mistake. At that point the rubber stamp went down and said he was barred from the U.S. for 10 years because he overstayed his visa.
Expand / Contract
Robert Oliver, of Vernon, N.J., is pictured here with his fiancée, Mary Bradley.
But the family’s fortune would soon change.
While driving home from a Christmas party in December, Mary Bradley, on a whim, called in to the New Jersey radio show, “Ask the Governor,” never expecting to reach Christie live on the airwaves.
Bradley told Christie of the family’s plight, which she said the governor did not believe at first.
“His first instinct was, ‘You’re lying to me – there’s no way the government would do this to someone who is trying to come here legally,'” Bradley recalled.
“He was absolutely appalled that this was my story,” she said.
The next week, Oliver and Bradley met in Trenton with a Christie aide who assisted them in their fight, along with staff members from Booker’s office, the couple said. Both Christie and Booker sent letters of support for Oliver to the State Department, according to Bradley.
“Senator Booker was involved throughout the entire ordeal,” Bradley said. “We are so grateful.”
Expand / Contract
Robert Oliver is pictured here with his father, John, and mother, Betty, who died in 2012.
Cristina Corbin is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.