If you have Deferred Action or an Employment Authorization Document, you may choose to travel within the United States as long as you are aware of certain risks or problems that could arise, depending on if you are traveling in a personal vehicle, public transportation, or by plane.
Deferred Action is a discretionary determination to defer removal of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion. People with Deferred Action are considered to be lawfully present in the United States, but do not have legal status such as a Lawful Permanent Resident or a US Citizen. You may have obtained Deferred Action through DACA, SIJS, or maybe you have a pending application for VAWA or a U visa, to name a few examples. There are many other processes by which you may have obtained an Employment Authorization Document, or work permit, such as a pending asylum application, an adjustment of status, or TPS.
In certain cases, you may qualify to travel internationally with Advanced Parole, but that is a different topic. The focus of this discussion is traveling within the United States when you are not a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident.
Keep in mind that each airline has different requirements as far as the type of identification you can use to board. We recommend that before purchasing tickets, you contact your preferred airline to confirm that you have the right form of identification. One of the biggest risks of traveling by air is that if for any reason the plane has to land outside of US territory, you may not be able to return to the United States if you only have Deferred Action or a work permit. If you have a case pending before US Citizenship and Immigration Services, you may have to wait outside of the United States for the remainder of the time of adjudication, or in certain cases, your case may be deemed abandoned. If you have a case pending before an immigration court, you are at risk that the Immigration Judge will order a deportation in absentia if you do not appear to any scheduled hearing.
When traveling by car or public transportation, be mindful of any checkpoints on the way to your destination. If you have Deferred Action, make sure to carry your documents with you so that in case of a stop by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) you can prove to the officers that you have a pending case and are not a priority for removal. Also keep in mind that if the vehicle you are traveling in crosses the border to Canada or Mexico, you will not be allowed to return to the United States. As incredible and unlikely as this might sound, we have had several consultations throughout the years with individuals who have found themselves in these unfortunate circumstances.
Keep in mind that having a work permit does not indicate that an individual has legal status. Depending on the facts of your case, it is very important that you discuss your plans with an immigration attorney to determine if it is a good idea to travel. Our attorneys are always happy to answer your questions and can help you decide what is best for you and your case. Please call us at 817-642-5848 to schedule a consultation.