Supporting Undocumented Students

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Studying abroad
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Studying abroad

Although studying abroad during college may be a feat for many students given time and cost considerations, there is one student population that encounters even more formidable barriers to study abroad — students who are DACA recipients. In this post, you’ll find a general overview of what DACA is, information about the extra steps these students must take in order to study abroad, as well as resources for more information about how to support these students. It is important to note that the information in this blog post is not intended as legal advice and should not be taken as such.

What is DACA?

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) refers to a policy implemented by the Department of Homeland Security beginning in 2012. This policy allows undocumented students who were brought to the United States as children and who meet certain requirements to request deferred legal action for an initial two years that is subject to renewal. In other words, the Department of Homeland Security may grant these undocumented students permission to continue living and studying in the United States without deportation. In order to request deferred action, a student must demonstrate that he/she:

  1. Was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before reaching his/her 16th birthday;
  3. Has continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Was physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making his/her request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or his/her lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
  6. Is currently in school, has graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, has obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  7. Has not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

What if a DACA recipient wants to participate in my study abroad program?

Although leaving and returning to the United States is difficult for DACA recipients, it is not impossible. Students receiving DACA do participate in study abroad, although researchers have yet to determine to what extent. In order to leave the United States, students must request Advance Parole — permission from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to leave the country and return. Advance Parole may be granted for education, employment, or humanitarian purposes. Minimally, before applying for Advance Parole, a student should have selected a study abroad program in which he/she wishes to participate. Next steps include seeking legal council either through the student’s institution or independently as well as considering the best and worse case scenarios that may result from leaving the United States and discussing them with family. When working with students receiving DACA, it is important to keep in mind the additional hurdles to study abroad that these students face as well as their heightened sensitivity to discussing their legal status.


The information contained in this post represents a variety of sources that provide even more information about supporting undocumented students and study abroad in particular. I found the following resources to be particularly useful:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

U.S. Department of Education:


University of Texas at Austin International Office:

Photo courtesy of MBAMax via flickr

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