Central American Resource Center offers legal services for students

By Eduardo Sanchez

Undocumented college students can legally travel abroad through the Advance Parole program. Whether for educational purposes or for personal reasons, the program gives students a time frame to leave the country and then be allowed back in without being deported.
The Central American Resource Center (CARCEN) is a organization that offers legal services to undocumented students, faculty and staff members.
One of the services they offer is Advance Parole, which gives those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or Temporary Protective Status (TPS) the opportunity to request permission to be able to leave the U.S. for a short time before being paroled back into the country.
Those who are part of the TPS group have their immigration status as pending.
Undocumented students can use this service to travel outside the country for humanitarian reasons. This includes receive medical treatment or attend funeral services for a family member.
The program also gives approval to visit family members who have fallen into poor health.
Not only does Advance Parole help give these students access to participate in semester abroad programs, educational exchange trips and in academic research but also provides the personal benefits and experiences of traveling to new countries.
Advance Parole can be granted for employment reasons as well. Overseas assignments, interviews, conferences, and training or meetings with clients overseas are listed as reasons for approval.
According to Melody Klingenfuss, a worker at CARCEN, the program allows students to get lawful entry back into the country but there are still some possible risks.
The program is discretionary and so the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has the final say to deny people reentrance. An example would be a returning individual who attempts to bring drugs into the country.
Applicants are unable to travel until their application is approved and they receive a travel document issued by USCIS. Because the program is discretionary, USCIS can ignore or deny permission and still keep the filing fee.
Customs and border patrol are given the job to inspect returning individuals at ports of entry.
They also have a say on denying individuals reentrance if something illegal is found during their search.
Another risk of travel at the moment is COVID-19. It is possible for travelers to become exposed to diseases in other countries during their trip. For these reasons, it is recommended applicants speak with an attorney about the possible risks.
In order to be approved for Advance Parole, individuals must submit a request to travel which includes a $575 filing fee. Once approved, they are issued an Advance Parole travel document which can be used to leave the country. The document contains a designated time frame for them to return by.
Individuals must go through an immigration inspection upon entry and then a secondary inspection.
In order to prepare, individuals need:

  • Current DACA work permit
  • Valid passport
  • Dates of proposed travel
  • Proof of need to travel
    For Humanitarian Advance Parole
  • Medical records of elderly or sick relatives
  • Birth certificates or documents proving family relationship
    For Educational Advance Parole
  • Acceptance to study abroad program
  • Documentation of planned research trio
  • Letter from professor or research advisor
    For Employment Advance Parole
  • Letter from employer
  • Conference invitation
  • Filing fee of $575
  • Two passport sized photos
    The normal process time for Advance Parole requests is three to five months. There are emergency travel request options available though. They take some time to process.
    CARCEN also specializes in the program, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).
    SIJS helps California immigrants between the ages of 18 to 20 who were abused, neglected or abandoned by one or both parents.
    It is a possible pathway to citizenship in the U.S. The only requirements include being under 21, not being married and having no immigration status.
    Immigrants can apply for this service at the border with a specific legal council or within the U.S. CARCEN also provides DACA renewals and initial requests. Although it does not offer a pathway to citizenship, it can help undocumented students apply for a green card.
    DACA is one of the two possible programs needed to apply for Advance Parole.
    Other services also provided by CARCEN include: family based petitions, naturalization, U-Visas, organizing policy and advocacy, running a day labor center where people can receive access to food, legal services for violence against women.
    The program does not provide services for international student visas or employment based visas. However, if they are unable to offer a service that is needed, CARCEN will help individuals find sources that can help.
    Screenings to qualify for any of their programs are free of cost. Students can book an appointment online at www.carecenla.simplybook.me.

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