Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)recipients sometimes have an urgent need to travel outside of the United States. If you're in DACA status, you can apply for permission to travel outside the U.S. using a process called “Advance Parole.” With an approved Advance Parole application, DACA recipients can travel outside the United States and return lawfully. If you get Advance parole, USCIS gives you a document to show to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) so that they let you re-enter the United States. This article explains what Advance Parole is, who is eligible to apply for it, and what the Advance Parole application process is like.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Updated August 22, 2022
What Is the Purpose of Advance Parole for DACA?
“Advance Parole” is a process in U.S. immigration law that lets immigrants leave the U.S. and then re-enter lawfully. For DACA recipients, this can mean getting permission to travel to another country for a business conference, study abroad program, or medical treatment.
Advance Parole is more limited for DACA recipients than for other immigrants. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will not grant DACA recipients Advance Parole for vacations or leisure trips. If you have DACA and want to apply for Advance Parole, there must be exceptional circumstances.
Advance Parole can be life-changing for DACA recipients who can qualify for it. Re-entry under Advance Parole is considered a lawful entry to the U.S. This means that DACA recipients who return from approved trips abroad become eligible to apply for green cards. And since a green card is the first step on the road to naturalization, Advance Parole essentially opens a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
Who Is Eligible for DACA Advance Parole?
DACA recipients can apply for Advance Parole for three types of travel: employment, educational, or urgent humanitarian reasons. Unfortunately, immigration law doesn’t let DACA recipients get Advance Parole for vacations.
Humanitarian travel means traveling for medical treatment, visiting sick relatives, taking care of an immediate relative, or attending an overseas funeral. Employment-related travel includes traveling for a work assignment, but it can also include conferences, training seminars, or job interviews. Advance Parole is also available for educational purposes like a study abroad program or an academic research trip.
To apply for Advance Parole, you need to file Form I-131: Application for Travel Document and proof of your reason for travel with USCIS. You’ll need to show USCIS that you actually need the Advance Parole document and aren’t just going on vacation.
If you are unsure whether you are eligible for Advance Parole, it is a good idea to talk to an immigration lawyer.
How To Apply for Advance Parole as a DACA Recipient in 5 Easy Steps
Applying for Advance Parole is fairly straightforward, but you need to make sure you pay close attention to each step. The entire application process takes about six months. If you need help we’ve got your back! Check out our free screener to get started today.
Step 1: Identify Your Reason for Travel
Eligibility for Advance Parole is limited. DACA recipients can only get Advance Parole for educational, employment, or humanitarian purposes. USCIS will not grant Advance Parole to a DACA recipient for a vacation. The first step in obtaining Advance Parole is making sure your trip fits into one of these three categories.
Step 2: Complete Form I-131 and Gather the Required Supporting Documents
To apply for travel authorization, you need to file Form I-131: Application for Travel Document with USCIS. On your I-131, you must state your reason for traveling, the date you plan to leave, and the date you plan to return.
You will need to provide the following supporting documents that prove why you need to travel with your Form I-131.
A copy of an official photo identity document like a passport or driver's license
Two identical passport-style photographs of yourself taken within 30 days of the filing your Advance Parole application
A copy of any document showing your current status in the United States — your DACA approval is a great option
A clear explanation of why you are eligible for Advance Parole. You can use this template for your own explanation.
You will also need to provide evidence that your trip is for educational, employment, or humanitarian purposes. For example, if you’re traveling to care for a sick family member, you should include their medical records. If you’re traveling for employment purposes, you should provide a letter from your employer. The more documents you provide, the stronger your application will be.
It’s also helpful to include a cover letter that lists everything in your application packet. This presents your evidence in an organized manner to USCIS. You may also choose to include a personal declaration stating why you have a compelling reason to travel abroad in your supporting documents.
Make sure you keep copies of every document you file. Do not submit original documents unless USCIS asks for them.
Step 3: Assemble Your Application Packet and Pay the Filing Fee
Once you’ve filled out Form I-131 and gathered all your supporting documents, it’s time to put them together to submit to USCIS. You also have to pay a $575 filing fee, which you can pay by check or money order. If you’d like to pay by credit card, you must file Form G-1450: Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you don’t have the money to pay the filing fee, read our article on how to get help with your filing fee.
Step 4: Mail Your Application Packet to USCIS
The final step in applying for Advance Parole is to mail your application packet to USCIS. You can find the correct mailing address at USCIS.gov. You should mail your application as soon as possible, but generally no later than 3-4 weeks before your trip.
Step 5: Receive Your Advance Parole Travel Document
Once USCIS approves your request for Advance Parole, they will mail your travel permit to your mailing address within 2-3 weeks. For this reason, it’s important to make sure you double-check that you have the correct mailing address on your Form I-131. The whole process takes about six months from the time that you submit your application until the time that you received your Advance Parole document.
When you’re ready to prepare your Advance Parole application, we can help!
What Are Some Travel Tips for DACA Recipients With Advance Parole?
Traveling with Advance Parole isn’t as simple for DACA recipients as it is for other people. Here are some tips to help you safely travel abroad as a DACA recipient:
Before you leave the U.S., you might want to speak to a legal aid immigration attorney about your situation. They can help identify any issues you might run into.
When you apply for Advance Parole, state your return date as a few days after you actually expect to return from your trip, in case there are any travel delays. If you miss your return date, the government might not let you back into the country.
Return by your return date.
Bring a list of emergency contacts, your Advance Parole approval, and a copy of your DACA approval with you when you travel. Also, leave copies of these things with someone you trust in the U.S, so you have a backup in case you encounter difficulty when you try to re-enter the U.S.
What Are the Benefits of Traveling With Advance Parole for DACA Recipients?
In addition to the opportunity to travel abroad, Advance Parole has a lot of other benefits for DACA recipients. For example, it allows you to work abroad, assuming you have the proper work permits in the country you travel to.
Advance Parole also opens a pathway to citizenship. Once you return from your trip, the U.S. government considers you to have legally entered the United States. This means that you can apply for a green card if you are eligible (for example, a marriage green card if you marry a U.S. citizen). Since applying for a green card is the first step to becoming a citizen, Advance Parole makes citizenship possible for DACA recipients.
What Are the Risks of Traveling With Advance Parole as a DACA Recipient?
Advance Parole is not without risks. For one thing, it costs $575 to apply for Advance Parole, and USCIS won’t refund you if they deny your application. Second, the validity period for your travel permit will be limited. This means you can only be outside of the U.S. for a short period of time.
The biggest risk you take is that you might not be allowed back into the U.S. If the Customs or Border Patrol officer you meet upon your return determines that you are “inadmissible” under U.S. immigration law, you won’t be allowed back into the U.S. They might deem you inadmissible for health reasons or determine that it’s in the national security interests of the United States not to let you back in.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply for Advance Parole if you are eligible — just that you should be careful when you do. If you need additional assurance before you apply, it may be a good idea to speak with an attorney or get legal aid.
Can I Travel With DACA in 2022?
In 2017, the Trump Administration tried to end DACA. In 2020, the Supreme Court ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reinstate the DACA program. Following the Supreme Court’s order, a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, ruled that the government must accept new DACA applications.
For the first time since 2017, the government is now accepting initial DACA requests instead of only accepting DACA renewal requests. This means that if you get DACA approval, or if you already have DACA, you can apply for Advance Parole.
In December 2020, the U.S. government started accepting initial DACA applications again. DACA protects Dreamers without legal status from deportation and offers them employment authorization so they can support themselves. But if DACA recipients want to leave the U.S. and return later, they need to file an Advance Parole request.
Advance Parole can be complicated, but help is available. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. If our app isn’t a good fit, we may be able to refer you to an experienced immigration attorney to help. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!