Since 2012, beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have been able to travel outside the United States and return legally by way of an Advance Parole travel authorization. Mostly these DACA recipients left the country for educational, employment and humanitarian opportunities abroad. On September 5, 2017, however, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suspended Advance Parole applications from DACA recipients following the Trump Administration’s rescission of the DACA program.
In this guide, we look at DACA and how to go about the Advance Parole process if you are a current DACA recipient.
DACA is an immigration policy enacted by President Obama in 2012. The program is aimed at permitting individuals who meet certain rules and who entered the U.S. before turning 16 to file as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipient.
The policy essentially awarded certain legal rights for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. For instance, DACA beneficiaries are allowed to obtain car loans, as well as a work permit and temporary protection from deportation. However, these recipients had to meet a number of stringent conditions, including not leaving the country while on DACA status.
The DACA document was subject to renewal every two years and though it afforded some pretty great benefits for the holders, it doesn't mean they are on the same level as American citizens nor do they enjoy the exact same rights.
The practice for DACA beneficiaries wanting to temporarily leave the U.S. was to file an Advance Parole application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This special travel document essentially allowed DACA recipients to depart the U.S. for educational, humanitarian, or employment purposes and still be allowed entry into the U.S. upon completion of the program.
This policy was later modified by the Trump Administration in 2017 by banning all new DACA applications. As such, only those who have been on DACA before may reapply for renewal of their status. Court orders have ruled for the continuation of the DACA program, but the DHS has stuck with the mandate to no longer issue new DACA statuses and has shuttered the issuance of Advance Parole for DACA recipients in some cases. There’s no clear cut policy regarding DACA and Advance Parole applications at the moment and it is not certain whether the policy may change again in the future.
What is Advance Parole?
Advance Parole is an administrative practice that originated from the general parole authority as contained in the INA § 212(d)(5) provision and enforced by the USCIS. It gives a U.S.-based individual advance travel authorization to re-enter the States after a temporary voyage abroad. If the USCIS grants an Advance Parole request, it will issue Form I-512L, advance parole authorization document.
An Advance Parole Document may also be awarded to qualified individuals outside the U.S. in line with the USCIS Family Reunification Parole policies. Per USCIS, these programs include the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) Program, Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) Program and Filipino WWII Veterans Parole (FWVP) Program.
If you are a DACA beneficiary who recently departed the U.S., then you will have to submit your Advance Parole document to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer or other immigration inspectors at theU.S. port-of-entry before you can re-enter the country.
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Benefits and Drawbacks of Advance Parole
The most obvious advantage of Advance Parole is the ability to travel outside the U.S. and return without compromising your status.
Additionally, the DACA advance parole allows the holder to work or study abroad for those who have set their sights on such an opportunity. Holding Advance Parole as a DACA recipient also means you can travel abroad for personal reasons, such as visiting family members back home.
On the other hand, traveling with an Advance Parole document while on DACA status does present a number of downsides and risks. For one, there’s always the risk that the beneficiary may be denied re-entry into the States.
In some cases, an application for travel document may be approved only under certain conditions, such as the travel time being limited. There’s also a fee of over $550 to file an Advance Parole request and you should note that not every reason for traveling will be approved. For instance, most Advance Parole applications that concern travel for pleasure tend to be denied flat out.
Who may file an Advance Parole request?
DACA beneficiaries seeking Advance parole must show that they are traveling abroad for well-define reasons, usually under educational, humanitarian or employment purposes:
Educational reasons -- for study programs and academic research abroad
Critical humanitarian purposes -- for obtaining medical assistance, attending a family member’s funeral service, visiting a sick relative, or any other form of urgent family-related concerns.
Employment reasons -- for assignments, client meetings, training, conferences, interviews and other key engagements related to the applicant’s employment.
Requirements for DACA Advance Parole applications
Like with any other application process involving the USCIS, DACA beneficiaries looking to file an Advance Parole request must provide all the required documents along with their filing form. In this instance, the documents required are in the form of substantial proof that the Advance Parole applicant is intending to travel abroad for a justifiable purpose, based on the reasons listed above. Here’s a few examples:
Advance Parole for humanitarian purposes:
Letter from a medical professional outlining why the recipient needs to travel abroad
Letter from a hospital describing the medical condition of the sick family member
Copy of death certificate for deceased relative
Advance Parole for educational purposes:
Letter from an educational institution detailing why the recipient should be allowed to travel abroad
A document showing that the recipient has been enrolled in a class or program abroad and how he or she will benefit from such travel.
Advance Parole for employment purposes:
Letter from the applicant’s employer clearly outlining the need to travel abroad
A document demonstrating a need, such as a training program or international conference, and showing the applicant’s participation.
Note that these are just preliminary required documents. The USCIS or DHS officer adjudicating your petition may issue a request for additional evidence demonstrating your need to travel.
Applying for Advance Parole as a DACA recipient
Filing your DACA advance parole application doesn't have to be a complex process. The requirements may be stringent, but as you follow these steps properly and have a legit purpose for wanting to depart the U.S., you shouldn’t have any issues. That being said, it wouldn't hurt to seek the expert opinion of an immigration attorney so you can get it right the first time.
Here’s how to apply for Advance Parole while on DACA status:
Clearly identify your reason for wanting to travel abroad
Remember, there are only three main reasons under which a DACA beneficiary may temporarily depart the United States. There are certain circumstances where an individual may be awarded an Advance Parole document outside of these restrictions, but the reason must be quite compelling.
Complete the necessary form
If you’re sure that your need to travel abroad is well justified, then the next step is to visit the USCIS website to download and fill out Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. State your reasons clearly and input your travel dates.
Gather the required supporting documents
In addition to the letters and evidentiary documents listed above, you’ll also need to provide a copy of your ID document with a photo, such as a driver’s license or passport identity page, as well as proof that you have been originally approved for DACA status (Form I-797).
Pay the filing fee
Form I-131 comes with a filing fee of $575, though certain applicants seeking Advance Parole for re-entry into the United States may be required to pay an additional $85 for biometrics. Keep in mind that all payments are final and USCIS will not issue any refunds even if it denies the Advance Parole application or if you decide to withdraw your request.
Applicants filing their petition at a USCIS Lockbox or service center can pay with a money order, check (cashier or personal) or by credit card through Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you’re paying by check, make sure it is made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Put the application packet together and mail to the USCIS
Have your immigration attorney go through your application packet and make a copy of all the documents before mailing the package. The postal address for your application will depend on the category under which you are filing the petition. You can visit the USCIS Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-131 to identify the right postal address.
An important thing to note is that the processing times for I-131 petitions can vary from one USCIS service to the next, so consider mailing your application packet at least a good number of weeks before your intended travel date. This will also give you time to provide any other additional documents that may be required by the USCIS.
If the USCIS grants your Advance Parole application, you will receive Form I-512L, Authorization for Parole of an Alien into the United States. Be sure to take the original of this document with you when leaving the U.S. You should also read the details of the form carefully and make sure you adhere to all the listed conditions.
Risks of traveling With Advance Parole while on DACA status
For the avoidance of doubt, being a DACA beneficiary is not enough by itself to travel outside the U.S. and enjoy ready admittance upon your return, hence the need to first obtain travel authorization. The risks are far greater than just the denied admittance but also the risk of losing your DACA status.
However, having an approved Advance Parole document does not automatically guarantee your admission into the U.S. upon your return either. The CBP officer at the U.S. port of entry can deny your entry if you are deemed “inadmissible,” based on health or security reasons.
Another scenario for entry denial to the States involves having an outstanding removal or deportation order on your record prior to leaving the U.S. In the eyes of immigration services, departing the U.S. means you have followed through with the deportation and are therefore no longer permitted to enter the States for a number of years (the exact length will vary depending on why there was a deportation order on your record in the first place). An immigration attorney will come in handy in this situation to reopen the immigration proceedings and then close them based on your DACA status.
Things to Consider When Traveling With Advance Parole
Yes, there are potential risks involved with departing the U.S. with Advance Parole, but there are cases where traveling abroad is simply unavailable. If you find yourself in this situation, keep these helpful tips in mind to avoid getting “locked out” of the U.S. upon your return:
Talk with an immigration lawyer before you leave the country so you can have an idea of any issues that might arise.
Make sure you are back in the U.S, on or before the return deadline listed on your Advance Parole document.
Tying to the previous tip, consider leaving enough time when filling in your return date on the Advance Parole request. This way, you can have some additional time to accommodate any potential delays that may occur during your travel.
Always travel with your DACA approval notice along with the approval notice for your Advance Parole. If possible, leave some copies of these approval notices with your trusted representatives in the States before traveling out.
Have someone you can call in case the CBP denies your admittance for any viable reason. This way, at least you won’t be stranded at the port of entry without someone on hand to appeal your case.
The Key Takeaway
Being a DACA beneficiary recipient does not automatically mean you should be caged inside the U.S. You just need to make sure to file your Advance Parole request in a timely manner and abide by all the required conditions. And while this guide has been about obtaining DACA Advance Parole, it is also aimed at helping you thrive during your stay in the U.S., especially when it comes to your finances.
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