The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

International Programs and Partnerships Office of Global Engagement

DACA And Study Abroad

DACA Background

Starting August 15, 2012 qualified individuals became eligible to request DACA consideration if they:

◦Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;

◦Came to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday;

◦Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;

◦Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;

◦Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or their lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;

◦Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and

◦Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

◦Are at least 15 years of age at the time of filing for deferred action (although they do not need to be 15 years of age or older at the time of filing their request if they are in removal proceedings, have a final removal order, or have a voluntary departure order).

Additional information and application forms are available on the USCIS deferred action webpage, www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals.

Definition of Terms

DACA: The Acronym for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (see above for details)

DREAM Act: The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act is a Federal bipartisan legislative bill initially proposed in 2001 that would provide conditional permanent residency to immigrant youth who fulfill certain criteria. This bill has seen multiple iterations and revisions, but has never been approved at the Federal level. Certain states have passed their own DREAM Acts granting similar benefits to immigrant youth within their state.

DACAmented:An Immigrant youth who has obtained benefits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (work authorization and deferred action from removal) that was established by Executive Action on June 15, 2012.  These benefits do not provide a lawful status.

Advance Parole: A benefit granted by USCIS that allows the beneficiary to apply for reentry to the United States after temporary travel abroad for specific purposes. Advance parole does not guarantee subsequent parole into the United States, however. The inspecting immigration official may, at his or her discretion, deny parole at the port-of-entry.  DACAmented individuals may be eligible to apply for advance parole, but see the discussion below.

DACA Students and Study Abroad

The Department of Homeland Security has stated that they will accept applications for Advance Parole for "education, humanitarian and work purposes" for students who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This process, however, is complicated and we strongly encourage students to seek counsel with an immigration attorney before considering study abroad as an option.

USCIS provides the following guidance [http://www.uscis.gov/i-131] for DACAmented individuals:

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: You cannot apply for advance parole while your request for deferred action is still pending. If you leave the United States while your request for consideration of deferred action is pending, your deferred action request will be denied.

Once USCIS approves your request for consideration of deferred action, you may file Form I-131 to request advance parole to travel outside of the United States. If you travel outside the United States without first receiving advance parole, USCIS will automatically terminate your deferred action. You must submit Form I-131 with specific documentation depending on the agency that deferred action in your case. If USCIS deferred action in your case, submit a copy of your Form I-797, Notice of Action. If U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deferred action in your case, submit a copy of the ICE order, notice, or letter. USCIS will only grant advance parole if your travel abroad will be for educational, employment, or humanitarian purposes. You must indicate the purpose on the Form I-131 as described below:

  • 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.

Travel for vacation is not a valid purpose.

Remember that an approved advance parole document does not guarantee readmission to the United States; a separate discretionary decision is made on a request for parole at the port of entry upon return. Due to the risks that may be associated with leaving and re-entering the US, length of program, financial responsibility policies, an individual’s circumstances and visa restrictions; there are a number of factors that an individual must/should consider with legal counsel before moving forward with any study abroad program.  This includes a review of the DACA recipient’s possible grounds for inadmissibility under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

DACA students should:

  1. Refer to the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) webpage for the most up-to-date     information.
  2. Confirm  whether or not they will be able to obtain a travel document (i.e.,     passport) from their country of citizenship.
  3. Consult legal counsel of their own choosing if they decide to apply for Advance Parole.
  4. Consult legal counsel regarding possible grounds for inadmissibility.
  5. Seriously consider both best and worst case scenarios.
  6. Discuss their choice with their family and loved ones.
  7. Determine the application timeline for Advance Parole, and how it aligns with     program deadlines/deposits. As of spring 2015, the Advance Parole application can take up to 3-4     months to process, so students should plan accordingly with study abroad     application deadlines, etc.

Instructions and Application for Advance Parole to file with USCIS

Re-entry back into the US cannot be guaranteed, even with advance parole authorization and the approval of a university or education abroad office. Students should discuss the risks associated with re-entry with their legal counsel.  

Advance Parole Document Advisory and Acknowledgement

Important   : Undocumented students who do not qualify for DACA are advised strongly against studying abroad, due to the risks that may be associated with leaving and re-entering the country. Non-DACA students may not have sufficient immigration documents to apply for re-entry to the US and can run the high risk of not being able to return to their academic program.  Additionally, non-DACA students may not have sufficient immigration documents to apply for visa requirements for specific countries.

Considerations and Questions

Education Abroad Considerations

  • Can the student obtain a passport?
  • Will there be visa(s) required for the program?
  • Does the airfare require students to enter countries with additional transit visas?
  • Does the program also fulfill major requirements?
  • What are the deadlines for the program? When do the students get notified they have been accepted? Will this interfere with Advance Parole requirements?
  • Does your campus offer legal support? Does your campus offer scholarships or financial aid for DACA holders?
  • Program application and compliance deadlines will run concurrent to the Advance Parole application. Is the student aware of all the upfront costs associated with both?
  • If the student does not feel comfortable with the risks, are there alternate pathways to fulfill an international component requirement?

Legal Considerations

  • Does the program date overlap with a student’s DACA renewal expiration?
  • Does the student have access to legal support for the Advance Parole application?
  • Has the student consulted legal counsel to determine if any pre-existing legal issues would affect their ability to re-enter the United States (grounds for inadmissibility)?
  • What happens if legislation changes while a student is abroad? Will their DACA status be jeopardized?

Financial Considerations

  • Undocumented students do not qualify for federal aid.
  • Depending on your state, undocumented students may have additional aid for higher education studies. However, the majority of these costs will be incurred at the expense of the student.
  • If your state DOES offer some financial support for undocumented students, can it be used towards study abroad programs?
  • Are your study abroad scholarships available to all degree-seeking students at your institution regardless of immigration status?
  • Applying for advance parole has an associated fee ($365) on top of DACA application/renewal fees. Is the student able to cover associated costs or is there financial support available?

Myths & Truths about DACA

Myth:   All undocumented individuals and unaccompanied minors are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Truth: There are very specific qualifications that must be met in order for undocumented individuals to apply for DACA.

Myth:   All undocumented individuals who obtain DACA are granted U.S. permanent residency. Truth: DACA is not a path to permanent residency; it “defers” deportation and grants undocumented individuals the ability to work via a government issued employment authorization card, which must be renewed every 2 years via United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Myth:   All DACAmented students are eligible for international travel for educational purposes through Advance Parole. Truth: DACAmented students must apply for and be granted Advance Parole in order to travel abroad for educational purposes. There are specific qualifications that must be met in order for a DACAmented student to be granted Advance Parole. Students should consult legal counsel for specific information regarding these qualifications.