Traveling abroad with DACA: Iliana’s experience, advice, and timeline!


(Interviewed by Carolina)

Iliana was born in Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. in 1995 with her parents and brother on Tourist Visas (which expired a few years after). She grew up in Turlock, CA. Iliana and her brother navigated the educational system being undocumented until the signing of DACA in 2012. She attended Turlock High School and graduated from CSU-Fresno in 2009 with a degree in Mathematics. She is currently a 4th year doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University pursuing a M.A. in Economics and Ph.D. in Education. She has been an advocate for immigrant rights, providing information and assistance to undocumented students interested in pursuing higher education.

Iliana recently traveled to Mexico with advance parole under educational purposes. She is part of a research team evaluating a privately provided, affordable comprehensive schooling model for poor families in Mexico City. She applied for advance parole to be in Mexico from July 12-26 and was approved to be there until August 19, 2015.

Iliana’s timeline:

  • Submitted Advance Parole application: May 18, 2015
  • USCIS received my application: May 19, 2015
  • AP approved: July 5, 2015
  • Traveled to Mexico: July 11, 2015
  • Returned to US: July 29, 2015

Advice from Iliana:

Did you seek legal counsel for your AP application? Why or why not?

I did not seek legal counsel for my AP application because the application was easy enough for me to do on my own. I did however, request advice from a friend who previously applied.

What is one piece of advice you have for DACA recipients who are thinking of applying for Advance Parole?

Make sure you have all your paperwork up to date (DACA, passport, driver’s license, IDs, etc.). My Mexican passport (issued in the US) was expired when I traveled so I had a difficult time leaving the country (the irony!). I thought I only needed the AP document to travel, but you have to have a valid passport to travel outside the country, otherwise they will not let you out (again, the irony!). I was lucky that they let me travel with my expired passport. I missed my original flight and ended up waiting in the airport most of the day due to other airline issues.

I renewed my Mexican passport in Mexico, but it was a very complicated process. My aunt helped me get copies of my birth certificate and an appointment at La Oficina de Relaciones Exteriores in Pachuca ahead of time. However, once there, they wouldn’t accept my Mexican passport (filed in the US) because it was not filed in Mexico. They wanted a Mexican ID, which I obviously didn’t have. I explained that I hadn’t been in Mexico for 20 years and that I was undocumented, therefore couldn’t apply for a US passport. They then asked for the last passport I filed in Mexico, which I had, but it was obviously expired and cancelled so they did not accept that one either. After six hours of going back and forth and waiting in several lines they finally accepted my Mexican passport (the one issued in the US) and was given my new passport that same day. I also applied for the IFE card (Mexican electorate ID card) for future needs. That process only took about 30 minutes, but it takes about 3 weeks for the card to arrive. I explained I would be out of the country and arranged for my aunt to pick up the card and mail it to me. I panicked for a split second from the thought of having to apply for a Mexican ID and not being able to return to the US in time. Luckily everything worked out, but I highly recommend having all documents up to date before leaving.

Iliana’s experience:

What was one of the highlights from your trip abroad?

I had a wonderful time in Mexico and got the opportunity to travel to several states. I spent the first week in Mexico City and nearby towns. I visited most of the major tourist points including El Angel de la Independencia, La Catedral, El Templo Mayor, Bellas Artes, Chapultepec, Museo De Antropologia, La Basilica de Guadalupe, Museo de Frida (Casa Azul) and Xochimilco. The next week I went to my home state, Hidalgo (about 1.5 hours away from Mexico City on car), where I saw family I hadn’t seen in 20 years! I stayed with family in Pachuca, celebrated my great-grandmother’s 101st birthday in Omitlan and visited some beautiful pinturesque towns including Real Del Monte and Huasca. We also visited Teotihuacan (about 30 mins away from Pachuca on car) and did a mini road trip to Veracruz (about 5 hours away from Pachuca on car). I had one of the best meals of my life at Mariscos Toño Bayon in Boca del Rio, Veracruz, a small, family-owned restaurant in the middle of a neighborhood, outside of the main strip… seriously, a must try! The last week consisted of visiting several states on bus. The first stop was Puebla (about 2 hours from Mexico City on bus), which had beautiful architecture, talavera and delicious food (I recommend the Chiles en Nogada and the mole).

I stayed at the Quinta Real Hotel, a lovely and elegant hotel, walking distance to the main plaza. The next stop was Oaxaca (the city is about 4 hours away from Puebla), land of warm water beaches, beautiful architecture, textiles, embroidery, jewelry, moles, mezcal and so much more. The Guelaguetza was going on that week so there were festivals all over the place, but limited hotel availability (plan early if you go this time of year). I stayed at Casa Carlota, a charming B&B style hotel, a few blocks away from the main plaza, which I highly recommend! The next stop was Puerto Escondido (about 5 hours away from Oaxaca City on bus), which looked like paradise. I stayed at Aldea del Bazar, another wonderful hotel, walking distance to a semi-private beach. This day consisted of total relaxation at the Club de Playa, Coco’s. The last stop was to Huatulco (about 2 hours away from Puerto Escondido on bus), which comprises nine bays and 36 beaches. I stayed at Hotel Fandango located in Punta Santa Cruz, with great views of the Bay and a stroll down to a private beach. The last day was spent going on boat ride along the nearby bays and beaches, where I snorkeled for the first time, so much fun! That same day I headed to the airport to return to the US.

The return was hassle-free. I flew out of Huatulco, there they asked for my passport and documentation to enter the US. I showed the attendant the AP document and explained what it was. The flight attendant had never heard of DACA or AP, but they let me through with no issues. In Mexico City (the layover) they asked for the same documents (passport and AP document) to board the plane, no questions were asked. Once in the US (at LAX), I waited in the “Visitors” line for about 45 minutes. The attendant asked for my AP document and was completely familiar with it. They took my picture and fingerprints (standard procedure for everyone) and sent me to a separate waiting room to wait for the AP document to be stamped. I probably waited about 20 minutes before they handed me my copy of the stamped AP document, no questions asked.

I hope my experience sheds light on the AP process. I am happy to answer questions about the process and/or my trip. Good luck to everyone!


Iliana was born in Hidalgo, Mexico and immigrated alongside her mother, father, and younger brother to the U.S. at the age of eight. Iliana attended CSU Fresno on a full-ride scholarship, where she graduated from in 2009 with a degree in Mathematics and a minor in Economics. Iliana recently finished a MA in Economics from Claremont Graduate University and is completing a PhD in Education Policy, Evaluation and Reform. Her research focuses on the occupational and educational attainment of immigrant students, the effects of deportation on the lives of young adults and economics of immigration.


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Categories: Advance Parole

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10 replies

  1. I just got my advance parole letter yesterday . It’s very confusing for me because it has all this warning signs on it . I have a date from 3-10-17 to October 2017 obviously I won’t be going to Mexico for this long but just wanted to know if your paper looked like that as well

  2. Hi , I currently have daca and I will be filing to change my status , the lawyer told me and my husband I have to leave the country on AP , but my question is , did you need the daca approval letter to go? My grandma is currently sick in bed (she fell and got surgery two months ago and since shes around 89 she cannot walk anymore ) would that be a good reason to ask for AP? I have no other reason (emergency wise) to go because my other family is healthy. Thank you

  3. Thank you . I know now what to expect. I am traveling with AP during Jan 7 to Jan 14. I am so nervous of them not letting me in, but i need to take my mother’s ashes to our hometown. That was her last will, and i wanted to grant it. So I applied last September and I got my AP approved in December 7th. Due to work i cannot travel before the dates mentioned. I am hoping of having a similiar experience as Liliana. Thank you

  4. Oh Thank God. we can travel? How is this possible? I havent seen my mother in 7 years now because of fear of leaving the states and being banned for 10 years. ive been hear 20 years and know nothing else
    How is this possible. can some please email me or write me back.

  5. I want to share my experience with AP i just came back from mexico through the LAX i travel with my wife and child (both US citizens). When we arrived they made us check in as a family. we got to the CBP officer he took me to secondary review and told my wife to wait outside. In there they took my AP papers and passport and told me to wait, in less than ten minutes CBP officer called my name told me “have a good day” and gave me my passport stamped, i asked him for a copy of my AP document his response was “both papers stay with me but your passport is already stamped” and that was it!! No questions asked no finger prints or photo.

    • I am thinking of studying abroad in Barcelona next Summer for about a month. It looks like I may be able to cover all expenses for the study abroad program I want to participate in (including the DACA application fee and legal advice costs). Since it may take upwards of 90 days for my AP application to be processed (and since my study abroad program app is due in April of 2017), I will be submitting it (AP app) either in December of this year or in early January. I am going to submit my education abroad application before I apply for AP though (to make sure the program itself is okay with my extenuating circumstance and also to ensure that I am actually accepted to a program in Spain). I know that there is still the risk of being inadmissible when I try to re-enter the U.S., but I am going to give it a shot. My question is, does anybody know of any non-federal financial aid/ scholarship opportunities for DACA students wanting to study abroad in the region of Europe I desire to travel to?

  6. Hi my name is prisila . My family recently found out that my grandma is very sick. Doctors said she might not live for very long. Me and my brother both have DACA we want to apply for advance parole. But our dacas expired in november . I already sent my renewal papers. We would only be goin for about a week or two. But im afraid about having problems when re-entering US . Can somebody advice me if you have had similir experience please. Thank you

  7. I wanted to go to Spain and France this summer with my school, but I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to get back in the country. Hopefully, I get another opportunity to travel.

  8. I recently traveled with the advance parole as well and I can say that it was the best summer of my life.

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