Travel Guidelines for DACA Applicants

More than 407,000 requests have been received by the USCIS since the deferred action program for childhood arrivals (DACA) was implemented on August 15, 2012. As of January 17, 2013, over 371,000 biometric appointments have been scheduled, 154,404 requests approved and more than 13,000 applications rejected. About 142,000 applications are currently under review.

Mexico leads the top ten countries of origin of childhood arrivals that filed for deferred action (290,019), followed by El Salvador (16,824), Honduras (10,882), Guatemala (9,904), Peru (5,974), South Korea (5,354), Brazil (5,098), Colombia (4,503), Ecuador (4,386) and the Philippines (3,019).

California is the state of residence of the highest number of the applicants (110,230), followed by Texas (63,455) and New York (23,389). The other states included are: Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, New Jersey and Colorado.

The USCIS recently released guidelines clarifying a number of issues on policy and procedure including questions on brief departures and travels outside the U.S. The guidelines state that the continuous residence from June 15, 2007 will not be interrupted if the absence from the U.S. on or after June 15, 2007 and before August 15, 2012 was brief, casual and innocent.

The guidelines further clarified that in order to be considered brief, casual and innocent, the absence must be short and reasonably calculated to accomplish the purpose for the absence. Activities outside the U.S. must not be contrary to law.

Absence from the U.S. because of an order of exclusion, deportation or removal will interrupt continuous residence. Similarly, absence resulting from an order of voluntary departure or an administrative grant of voluntary departure before being placed in exclusion, deportation or removal proceedings will also disrupt continuity of residence.

Travels outside the U.S. made after August 15, 2012 will result in a denial of the application. The applicant must remain in the U.S. while the application is under review. Once the USCIS has approved the request for deferred action, the applicant may apply for advance parole in order to travel outside the U.S. The application for advance parole is Form I-131 and the filing fee is $360. Applicants may not file for advance parole until the Department of Homeland Security decides the application for deferred action.

Advance parole will generally be granted only for humanitarian, educational and employment purposes. Medical treatment, academic research and employment are valid basis for advance parole but travel for vacation is not.

When there is already an order of deportation or removal and the USCIS approves the applicant’s request for deferred action, the applicant may still request advance parole if he wishes to travel outside the U.S. However, the applicant must make sure to reopen his/her case before the Executive Office for Immigration Review and have the proceedings terminated, otherwise, he may be considered deported or removed.

The updated guidelines also clarified that an individual who left the U.S. for some period of time before he turned 16 and returned to establish residence in the U.S. may still be considered for deferred action. He must, however, demonstrate that he established residence in the U.S. before his 16th birthday and that he meets the continuous residence requirement from June 15, 2007 until the present.