People under DACA Travel Outside the US

The program of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (commonly called “DACA”) is now implemented to allow certain young people who are not in legal immigration status but who meet specified criteria to be eligible to receive deferred action for two years, with renewals, and with the benefits to apply for work authorization. See here for details of the criteria to apply for DACA.

Passport_StampsIn addition to employment, another important matter is whether those people who applied DACA can travel outside the United States. The general rule is that any departure of the US after August 15, 2012 but before the approval of DACA, will disqualify them from receiving DACA.

Individuals who have been granted deferred action may be permitted to travel abroad, but only with an approval of the application of advance parole from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After DACA approval, the individual must file form I-131 (Application of Travel Document) and pay the filing fee. The advance parole must have been granted before departure, which grants limited time for travel.

USCIS issued FAQs specifying allowed purposes for traveling. Humanitarian purpose for medical treatment, attend a family member’s funeral services, or visit an ill relative are allowed. Educational purposes include abroad programs, academic research, conferences, training, etc. USCIS explicitly exclude travel for vacation as an acceptable reason for advance parole as of the most current FAQs.

USCIS cautions that those who are subject to a final removal order should seek to reopen their cases before immigration courts and obtain administrative closure or termination of their removal proceedings before departure. Otherwise, the departure may have them considered deported or removed, which can have severe immigration consequences.

In addition to advance parole, a person under DACA should pay attention to various grounds of inadmissibility, which can deny entry even with an approved advance parole. Examples can be unlawful presence over 180 days after 18 years old, or a criminal charge that triggers inadmissibility under immigration law. These issues should be carefully checked before departure of the United States.

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