DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

The information presented on this web page is a starting point to understand the Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum (“DACA”). The information in the toggles below is not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.
For UIC specific resources, please visit dream.uic.edu

Overview of DACA
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children and meet several key criteria may request, through a certain formal process, consideration of “deferred action” for a period of two years, subject to renewal. DACA is essentially a discretionary decision made by the Department of Homeland Security to not remove (deport) someone who does not have the proper legal status to stay in the United States. Only individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these guidelines will be considered for deferred action. DACA was designed to address access to legal employment for qualified undocumented individuals. DACA is not a path to permanent residency, and an individual must apply to renew their DACA status every two years.
To qualify for DACA...
individuals must prove that he/she:

  • Was under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012;
  • Arrived in the United States before his or her 16th birthday;
  • Was physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012; and
  • Entered without inspection by this date, or their lawful immigration status expired as of this date
DACAmented Defined
“DACAmented” refers to someone who has successfully applied for DACA benefits and is in possession of a federally-issued employment authorization card. Additionally, DACAmented individuals can apply for driver’s licenses in their respective states, a social security number for employment purposes, and for specific permission to leave and re-enter the United States for many employment, humanitarian and educational reasons, including potentially studying abroad on approved university programs, using a travel document known as Advance Parole.
Advance Parole & Study Abroad
The Department of Homeland Security has stated that it will accept applications for Advance Parole for “education, humanitarian and work purposes” for individuals who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This process is complicated, and we strongly encourage students to seek counsel with an immigration attorney before considering this as an option.

Within this context, “parole” is synonymous with “permission” and actually does not per se grant U.S. immigration status. Upon returning to the United States, a potential parolee would be considered an “applicant for admission” and could still be subject to removal proceedings based upon grounds of inadmissibility, notwithstanding the prior grant of parole. In other words, a DACAmented student is applying for permission to exit and then re-enter the United States for the reasons indicated below.

USCIS will ordinarily grant Advance Parole if travel abroad will be for:

  • 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.

Due to the risks that may be associated with leaving and re-entering the United States, length of program, financial responsibility policies, an individual’s circumstances and visa restrictions, there are a number of factors that an individual should consider with legal counsel before moving forward with any study abroad program.

DACA students should:

  1. Refer to the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) webpage for most up to date information.
  2. Confirm whether or not he or she will be able to obtain a passport from their country of origin.
  3. Consider the timeline for the DACA renewal process if his or her DACA status requires renewal prior to or during your anticipated study abroad program.
  4. Consult legal counsel of his or her own choosing if he or she decides to apply for Advance Parole.
  5. Consider both best and worst case scenarios.
  6. Discuss his or her choice with family and loved ones.

Once students have discussed their individual circumstances with legal counsel, they should:

  1. Research programs on the Study Abroad website to determine academic relevance and program eligibility for country-specific information.
  2. After they have narrowed their choices to a region or program, then they should meet with a Study Abroad advisor to discuss the application process, university compliance procedures, costs and visas.

The Study Abroad Office cannot guarantee re-entry back into the United States, even though students are participating in an approved UIC study abroad program.  

  1. Determine the application timeline for DACA renewal (if applicable) or seeking an Advance Parole and how it aligns with program deadlines/deposits.

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

Advance Parole Application
Before any student moves forward with an application for Advance Parole, s/he should know already which program s/he would like to apply to, or be admitted into the study abroad program of his or her choice. Student applicants may not be granted an Advance Parole travel document without sufficient documentation to prove their intentions to temporarily leave and re-enter the United States. Again, students should feel free to consult with experienced immigration counsel with questions or to obtain legal advice.

Please visit the USCIS website for most up to date information: www.uscis.gov/i-131

To apply for a re-entry permit, an applicant will need:

  1. I-131, Application for Travel Document
  2. Filing fee for ages 14-79, approximately (form fee) $360 + (biometrics) $85 = $445. Note: Please be sure to reference the USCIS website for the most up-to-date costs.

Along with the application and fees, ordinarily you may want to at least provide the following:

  • Cover letter outlining who you are, your goals, how this study abroad program is relevant to your major.
  • Degree plan indicating how course is applicable to your major.
  • Acceptance letter from the university and/or overseas institution or program.
  • Program-specific information: student handbooks, syllabi, itineraries, etc.
  • Supporting letters from professors.

Note: As well as sending all documentation to USCIS, be sure to certify/mail a copy of your application, keeping copies of all documentation submitted to USCIS for your own records.

Things to Consider
Strategies to fulfill our mission are centered on our commitment to remove or reduce the financial and academic barriers to study abroad participation and to remove the disparities in study abroad participation among underrepresented groups. While it is the goal of the Study Abroad Office to support all UIC students, it is important to note that the Study Abroad Office cannot guarantee re-entry back into the United States, even though students are participating in an approved UIC study abroad program.

Other things to consider are:

  1. Program Deadlines/timelines (consult with study abroad staff):
    1. Application and participation timelines may be concurrent with Advance Parole timelines.
    2. There may be additional costs incurred at different stages of the program application process.
    3. Financial Responsibility timelines may be concurrent with Advance Parole timelines, leaving the student financially liable for the program in the case of denial.
  1. Advance Parole timelines (consult with legal counsel):
    1. Advance Parole applications can take up to 90 Days to be approved.
    2. May not align with Study Abroad timelines for payments and compliance forms.
    3. Advance Parole is only valid for a specific amount of time.
  1. Re-entry (consult with legal counsel):
    1. Advance Parole does not guarantee re-entry into the United States.
    2. DACA students will be subject to secondary review at the port of entry into the United States, by Customs and Border Protection.
    3. There may be pre-existing reasons why a DACAmented individual may not be allowed to re-enter, which is why it’s imperative they consult legal counsel prior to the Advance Parole application.
    4. If legislation changes while abroad, one’s legal DACA status could be rescinded and, thus, re-entry into the United States could be jeopardized.
  1. Costs (consult with study abroad staff & legal counsel):
    1. Flights – Every student must purchase a flight to their intended country of travel. It’s important to be cognizant of the transit policies for any lay-overs, connections or missed connections.
    2. There may be costs associated with country-specific travel visas.
    3. There will be costs and/or deposits associated with a study abroad program.
    4. There will be costs associated with your DACA & Advance Parole applications.
    5. If the Advance Parole application is denied, students run the risk of being financially liable for a program they may not ultimately participate in.
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