Can DACA Recipients Travel Abroad? 7 Things to Keep in Mind

 

Traveling abroad can be a dream for many, but for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, it can come with unique challenges and considerations. The ability to travel internationally is not as straightforward for DACA recipients as it is for citizens or permanent residents. In this blog post, we will delve into seven important things to keep in mind before embarking on international travel.

What is the DACA Program?

The DACA program was established in 2012 by the Obama administration to provide temporary relief to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. Under DACA, eligible individuals, often referred to as “Dreamers,” can receive protection from deportation and obtain work permits, which are renewable every two years. While DACA offers important benefits, it does not provide a pathway to citizenship or lawful permanent residency.

Considerations for DACA Recipients Traveling Abroad:

1. Travel Authorization Document (Advance Parole): DACA recipients seeking to travel abroad must apply for advance parole, which grants temporary permission to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad. Without advance parole, leaving the country could result in the loss of DACA status and potential denial of re-entry.

Advance parole allows DACA recipients to temporarily leave the United States for specific purposes, such as educational, employment, or humanitarian reasons, and return without jeopardizing their DACA status. To apply for advance parole, DACA recipients must submit Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is important to note that approval of advance parole is not guaranteed, and DACA recipients should carefully review the eligibility criteria and provide supporting documentation with their application.

2. Timing and Planning: Planning international travel as a DACA recipient requires careful timing. Processing times for advance parole applications can vary, so it is crucial to apply well in advance of the intended travel dates. Additionally, travel plans should align with the validity period of the advance parole document.

USCIS recommends submitting the I-131 application at least 90 days before the intended travel dates to ensure sufficient time for processing. Additionally, DACA recipients should consider the validity period of the advance parole document, as they must return to the United States before it expires to avoid complications with re-entry.

3. Emergency Situations: DACA recipients traveling abroad should be prepared for unforeseen circumstances, such as medical emergencies or family emergencies, that may require them to extend their stay outside the United States. Having a contingency plan and understanding the process for extending advance parole can help navigate such situations.

4. Consular Processing: Depending on the destination country, DACA recipients may need to go through consular processing to obtain necessary visas or permissions for entry. It is essential to research the specific requirements of the destination country and plan accordingly.

Consular processing involves applying for a visa at a United States embassy or consulate abroad.

5. Immigration Policies and Travel Restrictions: DACA recipients should stay informed about changes in immigration policies and travel restrictions that may impact their ability to travel abroad. Political developments or changes in administration can affect entry requirements and travel advisories for certain countries.

This includes monitoring travel advisories issued by the United States Department of State and checking the entry requirements of their destination country before departure. Additionally, DACA recipients should be aware of any potential changes to DACA policy or eligibility criteria that may impact their ability to obtain advance parole or maintain lawful status while outside the United States.

6. Legal Assistance: Navigating the complexities of international travel as a DACA recipient may require legal assistance. Consulting with an immigration attorney who specializes in DACA-related issues can provide valuable guidance and ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

7. Maintaining Records and Documentation: Keeping thorough records and documentation throughout the travel process is essential for DACA recipients. This includes maintaining copies of the advance parole document, travel itineraries, proof of financial support, and any correspondence with immigration authorities.

These records can serve as evidence of lawful status and travel authorization in case of any inquiries or audits by immigration authorities. DACA recipients should also keep their designated immigration attorney informed and updated throughout the travel process to address any issues or concerns promptly.

While international travel presents unique challenges for DACA recipients, it is possible with careful planning and adherence to relevant laws and regulations. Travel with advance parole can often provide a route to obtain legal permanent residency, so it is worth exploring with your attorney. If you have any questions about your specific case, do not hesitate to reach out to me!