Can DACA Recipients Travel Outside the US: Understanding the Guidelines for International Trips

DACA recipients, often known as Dreamers, have limited ability to travel outside the United States. They are subject to specific regulations and requirements that allow for international travel, primarily through a mechanism called advance parole. Advance parole provides temporary authorization for DACA recipients to leave the U.S. for specific reasons and under certain conditions. The reasons typically accepted for travel include urgent humanitarian purposes, educational objectives, or employment reasons.

Obtaining advance parole is a crucial step for DACA recipients before traveling abroad. It involves an application process with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which requires them to justify their need to travel. It’s imperative to understand that even with advance parole, re-entry to the United States is not guaranteed. DACA recipients must be diligently prepared for inspection by immigration officers upon their return to the U.S. port of entry. Travel without prior authorization through

advance parole can have severe consequences for DACA recipients, including the loss of their DACA status. This underscores the importance of adhering to the appropriate legal process and seeking accurate information before planning international travel.

Overview of DACA and Travel Eligibility

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a U.S. immigration policy that allows individuals who were brought to the country as children and who do not have lawful immigration status to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit.

When it comes to travel eligibility, DACA recipients have the option to apply for Advance Parole. Advance Parole permits DACA recipients to travel abroad for specific reasons without jeopardizing their status. To be granted this travel authorization, individuals must satisfy certain requirements and demonstrate the travel is for:

  • Educational purposes (such as studying abroad programs)
  • Employment purposes (such as overseas assignments or interviews)
  • Humanitarian reasons (such as family illness or medical treatment)

DACA recipients must obtain Advance Parole before leaving the United States. If they depart without this travel authorization, their deferred action status may be revoked, and they may not be permitted to re-enter the country. When re-entering the U.S., they are subject to inspection by authorities, which always carries a risk of being denied entry, even with authorized travel permission.

Lastly, it is important to note that DACA recipients can travel freely within the United States and do not require special permits to visit U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Advance Parole Explained

Advance Parole allows DACA recipients to leave the United States and return legally under certain conditions. Navigating this process involves understanding its purpose, meeting eligibility criteria, and following a specific application process.

Purpose of Advance Parole

Advance Parole allows immigrants, including DACA recipients, to travel abroad for permissible reasons, ensuring re-entry into the United States upon their return. The key reasons include educational, employment opportunities, and urgent humanitarian reasons, such as visiting a sick relative.

Application Process for Advance Parole

To obtain Advance Parole, DACA recipients must submit Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, to USCIS. The required documentation should provide evidence supporting the purpose of the travel. It’s critical to apply well in advance of the planned trip, as USCIS must approve the request before departure.

  1. Complete: Fill out Form I-131 accurately.
  2. Document: Attach supporting documents that verify the reason for travel.
  3. Submit: Send the application to USCIS.
  4. Wait: USCIS reviewal can take several months.
  5. Receive: If approved, an Advance Parole Document is issued.

Eligibility Criteria for Advance Parole

Eligibility for Advance Parole is specific; DACA recipients must have current and valid DACA status. Travel must also correlate to educational pursuits, employment reasons, or urgent humanitarian situations. Non-essential travel is not typically a valid reason for granting Advance Parole.

Travel Restrictions and Considerations

DACA recipients must navigate specific travel restrictions and procedures to maintain their status. It is critical to understand the limitations on destinations, the process for reentry into the United States, and the potential impacts on their DACA status.

Countries to Avoid

Recipients should avoid any international travel without obtaining Advance Parole, a type of travel authorization from USCIS. International destinations are generally off-limits unless for urgent humanitarian reasons or important public benefits, and traveling without authorization may lead to the loss of DACA status.

Reentry to the US

To reenter the United States, DACA recipients must have been granted Advance Parole before departure. The document for reentry is crucial, and travelers must ensure it’s valid for the entire duration of their trip. On returning, they should be prepared for border inspections and to present their Advance Parole document.

Impact on DACA Status

Unauthorized travel abroad may result in the termination of an individual’s DACA status. Recipients must secure approved travel authorization before leaving to avoid jeopardizing their status. Even with Advance Parole, DACA recipients are advised to consult with an immigration attorney, as reentry to the United States is not guaranteed and may be subject to discretion at the port of entry.

Required Documentation for International Travel

For DACA recipients contemplating international travel, specific documentation is crucial to ensure their ability to depart from and return to the United States legally. Failure to obtain the correct documents can result in loss of DACA status.

Passport Requirements

A valid passport from the traveler’s country of citizenship is mandatory for international travel. DACA recipients must ensure that their passports are valid for the entire duration of their intended travel dates.

Advance Parole Document

DACA recipients must obtain an Advance Parole Document before leaving the United States. This document, known as Form I-512L, authorizes them to re-enter the country after traveling abroad. It is important to note that Advance Parole is typically granted for specific reasons such as educational, employment, or humanitarian purposes.

Supporting Documents

In support of their Advance Parole application, DACA recipients should be prepared to provide additional documentation substantiating the purpose of their travel such as:

  • For educational purposes: Enrollment confirmation, course description, letters from educators.
  • For employment purposes: A letter from the employer, conference details, training descriptions.
  • For humanitarian reasons: Medical records, letters from a doctor, funeral notices, or invitations to a family event requiring the recipient’s presence.

Emergency Travel Situations

DACA recipients may face situations where they need to travel outside the U.S. urgently. These instances require specific authorization known as advance parole, which is assessed on a case-by-case basis for humanitarian, educational, or employment reasons.

Emergency Advance Parole

DACA recipients must obtain emergency advance parole from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before international travel. Emergency advance parole is granted in situations such as critical illnesses, family bereavement, or other urgent circumstances that necessitate travel outside the United States.

Humanitarian Reasons

For travel under humanitarian reasons, individuals must provide evidence of the emergency, such as medical documentation or a death certificate. USCIS considers humanitarian reasons to include significant medical needs, attending funeral services for a family member, or visiting an ailing relative.

Educational or Employment Purposes

Travel for educational purposes might include study abroad programs or academic research, while employment reasons can cover overseas assignments, interviews, conferences, or training. Applicants must supply supporting documents such as a letter from the educational institution or employer detailing the necessity of the travel.

Potential Risks and Consequences

DACA recipients considering travel outside the U.S. must be aware of the inherent risks involved, which can lead to dire consequences including the possibility of being barred from re-entry, jeopardizing DACA status, and facing legal charges.

Travel Ban Risks

When a DACA recipient travels abroad, they must obtain advance parole which typically permits re-entry to the U.S. However, if a travel ban is instituted while they are outside the country, these individuals might not be allowed to return. This could occur due to rapid changes in immigration policy or unforeseen geopolitical events.

DACA Renewal Complications

Travel outside of the United States without advance parole before DACA expiration can complicate the renewal process. This includes the risk of being deemed to have abandoned their DACA status, making it difficult or impossible to renew their protections upon attempting to return.

Legal Implications of Overstay

If a DACA recipient overstays the period authorized by advance parole, they may face serious legal implications. They might be placed in removal proceedings or be subject to other penalties, such as being banned from future entry to the United States for a specified duration, typically three to ten years, depending on the length of the overstay.

Legal and Policy Updates

This section outlines the essential legislative framework governing travel for DACA recipients and recent policy adjustments affecting their mobility.

Current Immigration Laws

Under the current immigration laws, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, also known as Dreamers, can apply for advance parole, a special travel authorization that allows them to leave and re-enter the United States without jeopardizing their status. Criteria for granting advance parole include but are not limited to travel for humanitarian, educational, or employment purposes.

Recent Changes to DACA Policy

A significant policy adjustment took place in December 2020 when a federal court order reinstated the acceptance of new DACA applications and required the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process DACA travel authorizations, commonly known as advance parole, under guidelines similar to those in place before September 2017. These changes reinstated the potential for DACA recipients to travel abroad for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.

Pre-Travel Preparation and Tips

Before DACA recipients travel outside of the United States, they must ensure that they have taken the necessary steps to safeguard their status and prepare for their trip and reentry.

Consulting an Immigration Attorney

Crucial Step: DACA recipients are strongly advised to consult with an immigration attorney before planning any international travel. An attorney can provide personalized advice based on the individual’s specific case and protect their rights.

Understanding Your Rights

Travel Authorization: Individuals must obtain travel authorization, known as Advance Parole, before leaving the U.S. They should be aware that travel is generally permitted for humanitarian, educational, or employment reasons. Understanding the limitations and consequences of traveling without approval is essential.

Planning for Reentry

Documentation: Upon planning their return to the U.S., DACA recipients must have all required documentation ready. This includes their Advance Parole document and any additional evidence that supports their reason for travel.

Timing: It is imperative to plan travel dates meticulously and reenter the United States before the expiration of the Advance Parole document. Recipients should monitor their return timelines to avoid jeopardizing their status.

By following these guidelines, DACA recipients can prepare for their international travel with greater confidence and clarity.

Post-Travel Procedures

Upon returning to the United States, DACA recipients must perform certain procedures to ensure their DACA status remains in good standing and that their re-entry is properly documented.

Checking DACA Status

A DACA recipient needs to verify that their status has not changed during their absence. They can do this by:

  • Accessing their case status online at the USCIS website using their receipt number.
  • Contacting USCIS directly if they notice any discrepancies or need further clarification regarding their DACA status.

Reporting to USCIS

After traveling abroad, DACA recipients are required to:

  • Report their return to the United States to USCIS if instructed to do so as part of the Advance Parole documentation.
  • Retain and organize all travel documents, such as their stamped passport and Advance Parole, for future reference or in case of any inquiries from immigration authorities.