Contributed by Kim Tremblay, Associate Attorney
In June 2012, the government announced the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program for young immigrants who came to the United States before their sixteenth birthdays. USCIS began accepting applications August 15, 2012, just over a year ago. Since then, over half a million applicants have applied for DACA. Most cases have been approved: seventy percent of applications that have not been rejected outright have been approved, one percent have been denied, and about twenty-five percent are still pending. The vast majority of applicants are from Mexico, have been in the country for over ten years, were less than ten years old when they arrived, and entered without inspection.
DACA recipients have started leading more regular lives and are able to engage in activities previously impossible due to their undocumented status. They are able to work legally, enroll in college, and obtain a driver’s license in most states. Some DACA recipients have considered applying for advance parole to be able to travel outside of the United States. USCIS requires that the travel be for humanitarian, employment, or educational purposes. The applicant must apply and be approved before traveling outside of the United States. Traveling outside of the United States may have some potential immigration benefits for DACA recipients who entered without inspection. However, there are risks associated with traveling abroad. These risks vary according to immigration history, but are also inherent in trying to reenter the country with advance parole. Any DACA recipient considering applying for advance parole should consult an immigration attorney to understand the benefits and risks associated with travel.
What is next for individuals with DACA? Although the Senate has passed immigration reform legislation, the House of Representatives has not done so yet. Thus, there are no permanent options for those with DACA status at this time. DACA recipients should be prepared to renew their DACA status before it expires and keep monitoring congressional legislative action on immigration reform.
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