Travel for DACA Recipients

On June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum allowing certain individuals who entered the U.S. before turning 16 years old to obtain a work permit and remain in the U.S. without any fear of deportation.  Such benefits can be obtained through an application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  The guidelines for DACA are not the subject of this article, but rather the ability and impact of traveling as a DACA recipient.

DACA recipients may be eligible to receive an advance parole document, which is a document issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) that authorizes an otherwise inadmissible individual, to travel.  Inadmissible in the immigration context means that you are not allowed or prohibited from entering the U.S.  For example, those who do not have the proper documentation to enter the U.S. are considered inadmissible.  Another example are those that are in the U.S. and for some reason as defined under the law, something makes you inadmissible.  In any case, once inadmissible, a person cannot leave the U.S. and reenter the U.S. lawfully.  However, with Advance Parole, USCIS will give you permission before leaving the U.S., to reenter the U.S.

Just because you are a DACA recipient, does not mean that you automatically can obtain a travel permit.  There are certain restrictions for travel.  Advance parole is only allowed for “urgent humanitarian” reasons or for a “significant public benefit.”  So, for example, a person with a very sick relative abroad may be able to apply for permission to travel and return without any issues.

Travel outside the U.S. is not the only benefit as a DACA recipient.  Although DACA itself is not a “path to citizenship” as many opponents of it would argue, DACA recipients who travel, may become eligible to adjust their status in the future through an immediate relative, without having to apply for a waiver or leaving the country.  In other words, the benefits are limited to those with immediate relatives, but it may still be a future option to obtain permanent status nonetheless.

Beware!  Traveling while a DACA recipient has its concerns, and is not always recommended even though it may make you eligible for future immigration benefits.  For example, if you have a prior order of removal from an Immigration Judge, traveling outside the U.S. can have harsh consequences.  The law is constantly changing, so speak to a knowledgeable attorney who can discuss all the aspects of your case before traveling outside of the U.S.