CAN DACA STUDENTS GO ABROAD?
The information presented on this post is to address several inquiries received from university students regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum (“DACA”) and their ability to study abroad.
The purpose of this post is to share our understanding of DACA based on the information gathered from study abroad advisors in the U.S., information posted on the NAFSA website and USCIS.
What is DACA?
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children and meet several key criteria may request, through a certain formal process, consideration of “deferred action” for a period of two years, subject to renewal. DACA is essentially a discretionary decision made by the Department of Homeland Security to not remove (deport) someone who does not have the proper legal status to stay in the United States. Only individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these guidelines will be considered for deferred action. DACA was designed to address access to legal employment for qualified undocumented individuals. DACA is not a path to permanent residency, and an individual must apply to renew their DACA status every two years.
Can DACA Students Study Abroad?
The Department of Homeland Security has stated that it will accept applications for Advance Parole for “education, humanitarian and work purposes” for individuals who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This process is complicated, and we strongly encourage students to seek counsel with an immigration attorney before considering this as an option.
Within this context, “parole” is synonymous with “permission” and actually does not per se grant U.S. immigration status. Upon returning to the United States, a potential parolee would be considered an “applicant for admission” and could still be subject to removal proceedings based upon grounds of inadmissibility, notwithstanding the prior grant of parole. In other words, a DACAmented student is applying for permission to exit and then re-enter the United States for the reasons indicated below.
USCIS will ordinarily grant Advance Parole if travel abroad will be for:
Educational purposes, such as semester abroad programs or academic research;
Employment purposes, such as overseas assignments, interviews, conferences, training, or meetings with clients; or
Humanitarian purposes, such as travel to obtain medical treatment, attend funeral services for a family member, or visit an ailing relative.
Due to the risks that may be associated with leaving and re-entering the United States, length of program, financial responsibility policies, an individual’s circumstances and visa restrictions, there are a number of factors that an individual should consider with legal counsel before moving forward with any study abroad program.
We recommend that DACA students do the following:
Refer to the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) webpage for most up to date information.
Confirm whether or not he or she will be able to obtain a passport from their country of origin.
Consider the timeline for the DACA renewal process if his or her DACA status requires renewal prior to or during your anticipated study abroad program.
Consult legal counsel of his or her own choosing if he or she decides to apply for Advance Parole.
Consider both best and worst case scenarios.
Discuss his or her choice with family and loved ones.