How to Travel if You Have Deferred Action (DACA)

deferred action

Maintaining strong family ties between relatives who are living in different countries isn’t always easy, but for undocumented immigrants who’ve received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a formal process to make it possible to travel outside U.S. borders and return.

By applying for Advance Parole—a travel document that carries information about your trip abroad—your return trip to the U.S. will go more smoothly than if you didn’t have the appropriate paperwork as you cross the border.

For DACA recipients, the USCIS grants Advance Parole to those applicants who are traveling for purposes centering on education, employment or urgent humanitarian reasons. The USCIS doesn’t grant Advance Parole for vacations. According to the USCIS instructions for Advance Parole applications, “urgent humanitarian reasons” for travel could mean “to obtain medical treatment, attend funeral services for a family member, or visit an ailing relative.”

DACA recipients applying for Advance Parole must submit the following to the USCIS:

  • Form I-131, Application for Travel Document 
  • Copy of your driver’s license, passport or other photo ID
  • Proof of your DACA approval (Form I-797)
  • Documentation that supports your reasons for travel
  • Information about the dates you intend to travel as well as the duration of your travels to one or more destinations
  • Application fee of $360

Once you’ve applied for and received Advance Parole, the USCIS gives you Form I-512L, Authorization for Parole of an Alien into the United States. Form I-512L is a document you can show to officers at the border when you return. While Form I-512L shows border officers you received permission to travel outside U.S. borders, having the form isn’t an ironclad guarantee that you’ll be allowed to re-enter the U.S.

According to legal discussions centering on Form I-512L, DACA immigrants should never leave the country without the document. Reasons for not allowing an immigrant to re-enter the country could likely center on health or security concerns. Regardless of the reason, legal scholars say, you’re in a better position to address any problems that come up in returning home in the U.S. when all your paperwork is in order.

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