The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has vastly improved the lives of thousands of immigrants. The primary benefit is that it allows people to have an employment authorization card and work legally. However, it only grants a few other immigration benefits. Travelling can be an issue, at least for anyone who would like to leave the country. It is fine to travel within the United States, but leaving the country requires a plan. DACA holders must apply for “Advance Parole” from USCIS, and then wait for permission before they leave the country. Any DACA holder who travels outside the United States without Advance Parole, or who has already done so since August 15, 2010, automatically loses their deferred action.
USCIS does not grant Advance Parole to all DACA holders. A mere desire to travel will likely be rejected. The applicant must qualify one of the three specific reasons USCIS grants Advance Parole, which are:
•Humanitarian Purposes – travel to obtain medical treatment, attend funeral services for a family member, or visit an ailing relative
•Educational Purposes – semester-abroad programs and academic research
•Employment Purposes – overseas assignments, interviews, conferences or, training, or meetings with clients overseas.
To apply for Advance Parole, a DACA holder should collect and submit the following: 1) a completed I-131 form Travel Document from USCIS; 2) a photocopy of their photo identification, such as a passport or driver’s license 3) a copy of their I-797 form showing approval for DACA; 4) 2 color, passport-style photos of the applicant; 5) documents that support the claim that they qualify for one of the above reasons for Advance Parole, such as medical documents proving the existence of an ailing relative; 6) a check or money order for the current application fee for an I-131. The applicant then mails the necessary documents to USCIS for approval.
A word of warning for anyone who have been ordered to be deported or removed: speak with an immigration attorney before applying for Advance Parole since there are complication for those types of cases. It is possible to be approved for Advance Parole, but still not be eligible for re-entry to the United States.
If you are experiencing an extremely urgent situation or otherwise need a shorter processing time, USCIS will consider expediting a request for Advance Parole. Emergency travel and expedited requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and are granted at the discretion of USCIS. Applicants must demonstrate that the meet the criteria of USCIS. Anyone in such a situation should contact a lawyer about whether or not they qualify and to make maximize the chances the request is granted in a timely manner.
President Obama, in late November, outlined an expansion of the deferred action program that will include more people. We do not yet know the full details, but here is a bit about what we do know.
First, he ordered USCIS to expand the number of people who are eligible for DACA and the duration of approvals. While most of the other policy changes are going to take place later, renewals of DACA are now good for three years instead of two years as they previously had been.
Still to be implemented is the removal of the age cap. As originally implemented, DACA only applied to people born after June 15, 1981, but soon it will apply to everyone as long as they came to the country before the age of 16. DACA will also apply to people who were in the country on or before January 1, 2010 so more people will be eligible.
USCIS is also working on creating a new category of deferred actions for the parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. USCIS has not said yet if there will be an age minimum or maximum for this category so keep up to date on any new developments. Obama’s executive order requires that a person must have been in the country on November 20. 2014, and it is likely that USCIS will require some documentation to prove that. USCIS will have discretion to grant a deferred action. We do not know the specifics but people without any criminal history or contacts with bad organizations are likely to be approved. If the program is implemented similarly to DACA, people who do not have significant misdemeanors will be eligible as well. Those who are approved will be able to work legally in the United States, but they will not have a path to citizenship.
Finally, the executive action also expands the number of people who are eligible for conditional waivers when applying for an adjustment of status. To be eligible, a person mush be an undocumented immigrant and have resided in the United States for at least 180 days. Also, a person must either be the child of U.S. citizens or be the spouse and child of lawful permanent residents.
Most applications for a deferred action cost $465 (which includes an $85 biometric fee), but for some, it may be possible to avoid paying those fees. USCIS is careful to say that they do not offer a “fee waiver” for deferred action applications, but instead only offers a “fee exemption.” The difference probably does not matter to the average person. In effect, it means that instead of submitting the usual fee waiver form, each applicant sends a letter explaining the reason they believe they are eligible for an exemption, along with documentation to support the claim. Such documentation should include proof of annual income along with other documents proving the specific exemption.
The applicant then waits for approval of the exemption, and then, after approval, submits the application for a deferred action along with the exemption letter from USCIS.
There are three stated reasons that a person may be granted a fee exemption for a deferred action and all of them require that the applicant earn less than %150 of the U.S. poverty level, which is recalculated each year.
1. The applicant is under 18 years of age and homeless, in foster care, or otherwise lacking any family support.
2. The applicant suffers from a serious chronic disability and consequently cannot care for themselves.
3. The applicant, at the time of the request, accumulated $25,000 or more in debt in the past 12 months as the result of unreimbursed medical expenses for themselves or an immediate family member.
Anyone who qualifies for an exemption is in a desperate situation. Some attorneys would be willing to accept your case pro bono or at a discounted rate, and it would be worth talking to attorney to make sure it is done correctly.
Immigrants who successfully applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program soon after it went into effect in August 2012 will soon have their paperwork expire. The terms for both the deferred action and the accompanying employment authorization document are for 2 years. That means the first approvals will expire in late summer and early fall. USCIS is in the process of designing the renewal paperwork for deferred actions.
First, the bad news. It appears the filling fee is going to remain the same. It will cost $465 to file, regardless of whether someone is renewing or applying for DACA the first time. Applicants will also have to submit the same three forms that were submitted the first time: I-821D, I-765, and I-765WS.
Now, the good news. Applicants will not have to resubmit the supporting documentation. Only a handful of documentation should be necessary for applicants who have had no new criminal charges and have not been in any removal proceedings over the last 2 years. Also, USCIS is assuring immigrants that most applications will be processed in under 120 days (about 4 months).
It is worthwhile for applicants to prepare in advance, resubmit their paperwork, and ensure that there is no interruption in their eligibility to work.