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DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

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In an effort to improve access to study abroad for all students, the information below has been collected as a reference for undocumented students who have successfully obtained benefits under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This information is not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. In addition to seeking legal counsel, students should also contact Yale’s Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS) for guidance.

What is DACA?

On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain undocumented people who came to the United States as children and meet several key requirements (see criteria below) may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. DACA is not a path to permanent residency, and an individual must apply to renew his or her DACA status every two years.

Individuals who have obtained DACA benefits can apply for specific permission, known as Advance Parole, to leave and re-enter the United States for educational reasons, including studying abroad on designated programs. However, it is recommended that students with DACA not make plans to study abroad until we learn more about the future of DACA after January 20, 2017. 

What are the criteria to be considered eligible for DACA application?

To be considered, you must:

  • Have come to the United States under the age of sixteen
  • Have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years and have been physically present in the United States on the date of our announcement on June 15, 2012
  • Either be currently in school, a graduate of a U.S. high school or a recipient of a Certificate of High School Equivalency, or an honorably discharged veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States
  • Not have been convicted of either a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
  • Be younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012

Note that the Supreme Court will be considering an extension of DACA this summer that would move up the qualifying date by 2 years. See America's Voice for updates.

What is Advance Parole?

Advance Parole is permission to exit and re-enter the U.S. temporarily for a given purpose. The Department of Homeland Security has stated that it will accept applications for Advance Parole for students who have been granted DACA. This process is complicated and we strongly encourage students to seek counsel with an immigration attorney before considering this as an option. For advice in finding an immigration attorney, please contact the Office of International Students & Scholars.

Students cannot apply for advance parole while their request for deferred action is still pending. If the student leaves the U.S. while his or her request for consideration of deferred action is pending, the deferred action request will be denied.

Under what circumstances can Advance Parole be requested?

Advance parole can only be requested if your travel abroad will be for educational, employment, or humanitarian purposes:

  • Educational purposes, such as semester abroad programs or academic research
  • Employment purposes, such as overseas assignments, interviews, conferences, training, or meetings with clients
  • Humanitarian purposes, such as travel to obtain medical treatment, attend funeral services for a family member, or visit an ailing relative

You should view the USCIS website to view the type of evidence recommended for each category above. Travel for vacation is not a valid purpose.

Does securing Advance Parole guarantee my re-entry into the United States?

Advance Parole does not guarantee re-entry back into the United States. This is a risk you must be comfortable with before choosing to move forward with this process. Possible reasons for barring re-entry to U.S. include:

  • Incorrect or missing Documentation
  • Overstaying approved time
  • Visiting unapproved countries
  • Pre-existing legal issues and/or arrests
  • Order of Removal, Deportation, or Exclusion from the past

How do I apply for Advance Parole?

Before beginning the application process, you must seriously consider the risks and discuss options with an immigration attorney. If you decide to apply for Advance Parole, you must have already identified the study abroad program you would like to attend, and, ideally, you should already be admitted. You will need to provide proof of your intentions to study abroad and return to the United States. In your application, you should include, at a minimum:

  • Cover letter outlining your intended plan of study, goals for experience, and the ways in which the study abroad program is relevant to your academic major
  • Acceptance letter from the university and or program you plan to attend
  • Yale’s study abroad approval letter
  • Program-specific information
  • Letter of support from Yale professor
  • Your academic plan for completing your undergraduate degree

I’m a DACA student. What are my next steps?

  1. Refer to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) webpage for most up to date information
  2. Confirm whether or not you will be able to obtain a passport from your country of origin
  3. Consider the timeline for the DACA renewal process if your DACA status requires renewal prior to or during your anticipated study abroad program
  4. Consult legal counsel to discuss Advance Parole application
  5. Discuss considerations with your family
  6. Research study abroad programs
  7. Consider finances - In addition to fees for your study abroad program, be sure to consider fees for the Advance Parole application
  8. Meet with a study abroad adviser

I’m an undocumented student that has not been granted DACA benefits. Can I study abroad?

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

I do not feel comfortable with the risks. Are there alternate pathways to have an international experience?

The Global Summer Program (GSP) is an exciting learning experience that connects students from IARU universities with their peers from around the world. GSP participants have the unique opportunity to come together to explore and discuss critical issues in a global perspective that require multidisciplinary approaches.  Each summer, Yale offers Global Summer Program courses here on the New Haven campus.  To learn more, visit the Global Summer Program website.

Link: DACA Resources

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
NAFSA Resource Page on DACA
Webinar: DACA and Advance Parole (May 2014)
Traveling Abroad with Advance Parole: A Guide for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Beneficiaries
Traveling Abroad with DACA and Advance Parole Webinar (June 2014)
United We Dream: Scholarship Information
Yale's Office of International Students & Scholars