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DACA and Traveling Abroad: A Pathway to Citizenship?

When it comes to immigration issues, and DACA especially, the questions concerning permits and permissions usually surround wanting to stay within the U.S., but what if you are here through the DACA program and want to temporarily leave the U.S.? Can you do so legally and return to the U.S.? There are many reasons someone might need or want to temporarily leave the United States, so let’s take a look at what that means for Dreamers.

You need more than DACA to leave

As mentioned, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a program that allows people who came to the United States as children to legally live within the U.S. borders without being a full U.S. citizen. If you’re wanting to venture outside of the U.S., you will need more than your DACA status to do so and safely and legally return here. Attempting to leave the U.S. and return with DACA alone can result in your DACA status being revoked indefinitely. While the short answer is that DACA does not grant access to leave and return to the U.S., there are other options that will allow this.

Advance Parole

Advance Parole is a process in U.S. immigration law that allows immigrants to leave the U.S. and then re-enter lawfully. This process was readily open and widely used during the Obama administration. Now that President Biden is in office and has announced applications for Advance Parole will be processed, it’s the perfect opportunity to look at who can travel outside of the U.S. and re-enter through this program and how.

Not all Fun and Games

The Advance Parole permit is quite appealing, and for reasons far greater and more desirable than an extended vacation in the Caribbean. This program can literally be life-changing for qualifying Dreamers, as re-entry into the United States under Advance Parole is considered a lawful entry into the U.S. What’s the significance there? A lawful entry into the U.S. from an approved trip abroad means eligibility to apply for a Green Card, thus creating a clear path to citizenship for Dreamers. Wow, right? Wow, indeed, but why aren’t Dreamers lining up en masse to apply for Advance Parole? Unfortunately, Advance Parole is more limited and has tighter allowances for Dreamers than it is for other immigrants.

Strictly Business

When it comes to telling U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) why you, as a Dreamer, need Advance Parole to leave and re-enter the U.S., your circumstances need to be exceptional and serious, as USCIS does not grant Advanced Parole with DACA for vacations and fun. While you might feel you desperately and urgently need a vacation in Cancun, the generally accepted situations USCIS counts as exceptional are more along the lines of urgent emergencies, important events like somebody’s wedding, a funeral, visiting a sick relative, giving blood, or otherwise helping somebody wind up their affairs or legal matters outside the country. Permissible reasons for travel can also be for business, training, and study abroad programs. Because of the very tight restrictions and scrutiny on Dreamers, it’s very important to have capable counsel advise you on your Advance Parole application.

Why is it important?

Of course, needing to travel out of the country to help a family in need or attend training or an important event is important; but, as I mentioned earlier, the act of legally re-entering the U.S. creates pathways for secured legal status in the U.S. in a few ways: having a passport stamped, being inspected legally for the first time, is a new legal entry which will now open the door for citizenship, which also allows for citizenship for a future spouse. Also, if you were somebody who came in illegally, that could be the difference between being able to get residency here in the United States or having to apply through another process that’s much longer and much more expensive. If you or your family aren’t eligible for those options, there are others.

Parole in Place

Another option for a pathway to citizenship is through a unique program for qualifying undocumented family members of U.S. military personnel, both active and veteran. Parole in Place allows non-citizen family members who are in the U.S. unlawfully to apply for a green card, without having to leave the country. While parole in place is usually for spouses of people in the military, this program is also for children of persons in the military, and even parents of those who are in the military. Qualifying candidates must show in their application the relation they have with this person in the military and that they’re either active or honorably discharged from the military. Once granted, Parole in Place treats you as though you have left and re-entered the U.S., inspected lawfully and legally, though you don’t actually have to leave—hence the in place.

While you may want to leave, may be able to leave, or maybe treated as though you’ve left, there are a few options for changing your status that is very much worth reviewing with one of our qualified and passionate immigration attorneys who have helped many families reunite and get residency through these processes.

Continue to tune into Immigration Wednesdays and keep up with us on social media as we expand the conversation on immigration processes in the coming weeks. We’re very excited about all the updates and changes from this new administration, and we hope we can help you secure your life here through some of these programs.

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Posted in Citizenship, Deferred Action, Immigration

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