December 10, 2012

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the Dangers of International Travel

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program allows certain individuals who entered the United States before age 16 to remain in the United States and continue their education or work legally for a two-year period (and possibly longer with renewals). Individuals granted deferred action cannot travel outside of the United States unless given advance permission to do so which is called “advance parole.” Without advance parole, deferred action will terminate automatically if you travel outside the United States. An advance parole application must be submitted to USCIS and will only be granted under very limited circumstances.

Even if advanced parole is granted, you should not travel if you have accrued unlawful presence. As I explained in my previous email, the unlawful presence law punishes immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally or who stay in the U.S. after their visa expires. The law says that these immigrants accrue unlawful presence for each day they remain in the U.S. without government approval. If an immigrant accumulates between 180 and 364 days of unlawful presence and then leaves the U.S., he or she will be barred from getting a visa and returning to the U.S. for three years (3-year bar). If the immigrant is unlawfully present in the U.S. for one year or more and then leaves the U.S., then he or she will be barred from getting a visa and returning to the U.S. for 10 years (10-year bar).

For example, Juan entered the U.S. with a visitor visa when he was 15. The visa expired when he was 16 years old but he remained in the U.S. without approval. He later obtained DACA approval when he was 25 years old. Of course, he had more than one year of unlawful presence. Juan gets advance parole to travel to Canada for a business trip. After he returns, he marries his fiance, a U.S. citizen. He applies for his green card based upon marriage but is denied because his trip to Canada activated the 10-year unlawful presence bar.

As you can see, international travel can be dangerous, causing you to lose immigration opportunties. For your specific circumstances, be sure to speak with an immigration attorney about the consequences of traveling outside the U.S. before you travel.

For more informaiton about DACA or assistance with your DACA application, you are invited to call our firm at 469-916-7900.