By KARLA ESTRADA
(Interviewed by Carolina Valdivia)
Many of you have wondered what the process is for traveling abroad with DACA. And while I have personally not gone through the process, I am excited to announce that for the coming weeks, we will be featuring the experiences of, and advice from, several DACA beneficiaries who have traveled abroad using advance parole. This week, you get to read about Karla’s experience:
My name is Karla Estrada Sanchez and I am from Mexico, I came to the United States at the age of five years old. I grew up in Chino California and recently graduated from UCLA, I am associated with I.D.E.A.S at UCLA and Mt. SAC, I used to participate with the CA DREAM Network, but I took a break from activism in 2010. Nowadays I concentrate on my education, and now on searching for employment and studying for both the GRE and the LSAT, also on my undocutravelers project. Not all is work however, I enjoy reading books (holla for the Harry Potter fans!), watching Doctor who (whovian here!) or any 90s show (field trip to memory lane!), I also enjoy going to the beach and traveling!
I recently visited Italy with advance parole, I went to study the Italian language and a Federico Fellini class through UCLA, so my reason was purely educational. The program lasted only a month, but I was granted extra days, from June 21st to August 5th, those are exactly the dates I requested. The dates depend on the officer reviewing your case because some people get more or less time than requested, for education purposes, especially when it is a program, the dates are a little more solid since your evidence shows the dates of the program.
A timeline of my advance parole process:
● Submitted: January 29, 2015
● USCIS received my application: February 2nd
● AP approved: February 24th
● Received the permit: February 28th
Note- Although I got paroled from June 21st to August 5th I did not use all the dates, I traveled to Italy on June 23rd and returned to the United States on August 4th.
Advice from Karla:
Initially I sought help from a UCLA law professor named Chao Romero, but then I decided that I could fill out the application by myself. The reason why I did not go to a lawyer was because the application is very easy, and I do not have a record or an immigration issue, therefore paying a lawyer to do an easy process was not a viable option for me.
If you are thinking about applying for AP, I say to do it. If you feel more comfortable doing the process with a lawyer, that is your choice, but if you know that you are clean and do not have something strange on your record do it alone, that way you save money, learn the process, and can help others. Also, do not lie about your reason, and make sure your memo, and if you are doing humanitarian, doctor letters are official and well written. Lastly, do not be afraid about the re-entry to the country. On the USCIS website it says that re-entry is not guaranteed, which causes people to freak out and decide not to proceed with the application, but do not let fear stop you from living your life and taking advantage of advance parole. If you have no record and have all your affairs in order you have nothing to fear, all you have to do when coming back to the U.S is to have your parole papers, a valid passport, and your EAD card, just in case the officer or the airline need proof about residence in the U.S. Do not get too nervous, or anxious when talking to an officer, you have done nothing wrong, and have legal documents to support your case so don’t give them reason to hold you in their office more than necessary.
Honestly I cannot pick which part of my trip was more of a highlight than the other! All the places I went to were absolutely beautiful. Visiting Italy was one of my dreams, and just by being there was almost magical. Perhaps one of the most emotional and bittersweet moments was when I visited Venice, my dad’s dream is to visit Piazza San Marco in Venezia, so when I stepped foot on the Island, I was overwhelmed with satisfaction and at the same time, sadness, to the point that I had to sit down and cry a little. I just kept thinking, I wish my parents were here with me. Another highlight is when I went to Paris, France and I saw the eiffel tower for the first time and at night when it lighted up and then it sparkled like a Christmas tree, I felt the same wonder and almost magical feeling, but also bitter and sad because I again kept thinking about how I yearned to have my family with me.
The most obvious challenge about AP was the return to the United States, I had difficulty when trying to check in online for my return flight. Lufthansa does not have an option for re-entry permits for the U.S so it kept asking me for a Visa, and when I clicked “no” it kept saying that I couldn’t board the plane. That scared the living day light out of me, so what I did was to go to the airport the next day with my luggage and check-in in person, I explained why I didn’t check in online, gave them my AP papers and my EAD card and they gave me my boarding pass! The next challenge was when I was already in United States soil and I had to go through customs. I had to go to the visitors line, then went to a cubicle with an officer in it and gave them my documents, the officer asked me what was AP and I explained, then he sent me to a private separate room where I gave my documents to an officer and then waited for 5 minutes, then he called my name and gave me my documents and let me go without questions! That was the most challenging aspect of my trip, besides the stress during the flight…when we landed I was already sweating! But thank goodness everything went smoothly!
Although the process is different for each individual, advance parole is worth it, you get to study or visit a sick relative or fulfill your job duties abroad, an option that I am sure many of us didn’t think possible, so just do it, either by yourself or with a lawyer, the important thing is to not live in constant fear or miss opportunities due to insecurity! Go ahead and try it out! If you are afraid to be denied parole when you apply…what is the worst thing that can happen? Just lose your money! I know it doesn’t sound like a good idea, but you have so much to gain if you get the permission to go out and come back!
WHAT ARE YOUR QUESTIONS/CONCERNS REGARDING TRAVELING ABROAD WITH DACA? SHARE WITH US IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!
*A special thank you to all fellow DACAmented folks who share their experiences with us. It makes a tremendous difference to be able to not only learn about the advance parole application process, but to also learn about your experiences, advice, and timelines!*
Additional recommended resources:
My (Un)Documented Life Blog- Posts on Advance Parole
Karla’s blog- “My UndocuTraveler Adventure“
Facebook page by DREAMers- “Traveling Abroad with DACA“
United We Dream- “10 Things I Learned on my Trip to Mexico via Advance Parole“
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Categories: Advance Parole