Many DACA recipients have faced sudden family emergencies abroad, especially during the pandemic. It is important to note that approved DACA does NOT by itself allow DACA recipients to travel internationally. If a DACA recipient leaves the United States without prior permission from immigration (called “Advance Parole”), then they will likely face a difficult (or impossible) time coming back to the United States lawfully, and they will no longer meet the guidelines to qualify for DACA benefits.
However, DACA recipients are eligible to ask for the benefit of an Advance Parole document to allow them to travel outside the United States and to ask to return. DACA recipients are able to ask for Advance Parole if they have a humanitarian, educational, or work-related basis for traveling outside the United States. In most cases, when a DACA recipient has an approved Advance Parole and travels within the travel window immigration approves for them, they are able to leave and return to the United States without issue. An attorney can help to screen for any risks in a particular applicant’s case.
A request for Advance Parole through DACA is typically made by filing a packet of forms, fees, and supporting documents that is sent by mail to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). However, immigration has been taking months and months to process these types of requests – what if someone needs to travel more urgently?
There are options available for DACA recipients to try and request Advance Parole more quickly. For example, some DACA recipients have been able to contact USCIS by phone to schedule an emergency appointment and go in person to submit their Advance Parole application packet and receive a decision within days. This is only available in emergency situations – for example, if the applicant has a close relative abroad who is seriously ill or recently passed away, the applicant might be able to have an emergency appointment to spend time with their sick relative or to attend a funeral. USCIS notes that “[b]usiness trips, weddings, holiday parties, and other planned events would usually not be considered an emergency situation.”
DACA Advance Parole and international travel are made more complicated due to ever-changing travel rules and vaccination/testing requirements due to COVID-19, and due to ongoing lawsuits challenging the validity of the underlying DACA program. Furthermore, certain DACA recipients may not be eligible to return on advance parole, depending on their previous immigration history. Consequently, it is more important now than ever that DACA recipients receive competent legal advice when evaluating their options. If you would like to discuss your situation, please call Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan at (312) 427-6163 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced immigration attorneys.