November 25, 2014

Q.  I have been reading information about President Obama’s announcement on immigration reform.  I think I am eligible for deferred action.  Will I be able to travel abroad?

A.  The President’s executive action is likely to make it possible for some people to be able to travel abroad but only for very limited reasons. It is still unclear exactly what the rules will be regarding travel, and in the upcoming months, the government will likely provide additional information and clarification.  In the meantime, people who think they are eligible for deferred action should not travel outside the US.

In general, it is important to understand the risks of traveling, even with deferred action.  First and foremost, immigrants who were previously ordered removed, who have certain criminal offenses on their record, or who have ever lied to Immigration should never travel abroad.

Also, under the 2012 deferred action program for people who entered the US before age 16, once people were granted deferred action, they could apply for a travel document called Advance Parole.  However, even for people who were granted, there were serious risks for people who had more than 6 months of unlawful status in the US.  People in this situation would be barred from returning to the US for 3 or 10 years and would face complications if applying for green cards in the future.

The good news is that included in the President’s announcement was an order that traveling with Advance Parole will no longer trigger the 3 and 10 year bars.  This change therefore removes this obstacle to travel under the new deferred action program.

However, there are still likely to be limited reasons for which people can travel.  This is because the new deferred action program will likely mirror the 2012 program, which allows people with deferred action to travel for humanitarian, educational or employment purposes only.  (Note that people who are not eligible for deferred action are likewise not eligible for travel permission).  The government has specified that humanitarian reasons include medical treatment, funerals, and visiting a sick family member.  They specifically state that traveling for vacation is not a valid reason to obtain Advance Parole.  It is therefore important to wait for the exact rules to be released under the new program to determine what the authorized reasons for travel will be.

Remember that no one can apply for the president’s new deferred action program yet, so please be cautious of anyone advising otherwise.  Applicants should speak with a licensed immigration attorney before proceeding with any application.

For more information, please come to one of the IIIC’s Deferred Action informational sessions where the IIIC’s attorneys will be available to answer general questions about these new programs.  For any immigration questions you might have, visit one of IIIC’s weekly legal clinics for a free, confidential consultation with a licensed immigration lawyer.

Disclaimer:  This article is published to inform generally, not to advise in individual cases.   For legal advice seek the assistance of the IIIC’s immigration legal staff.  For further information, call the IIIC at 617-542-7654 or check our website www.iiicenter.org.

Deferred Action & Travel Eligibility Advisory, 25th November 2014 (PDF)