Travelling to the US after moving to Canada as a former DACA recepient

I have been wanting to write this post for a very long time, as I know this question weights heavy on a lot of your minds. It has taken this long because I first needed to go though the long and slow bureaucratic process myself before I could write about it. Well, the jury is in… I will start from the beginning.

Before moving, I knew that as soon as we left the US we would be subject to a 10 year ban for having lived over a year as undocumented immigrants there. The basic rule, in case you are not familiar, is that you do not accrue “unlawful presence” while under age; however, as soon as you turn 18 your clock starts ticking. In my case there was a gap of over a year from when I turned 18 and when DACA became available, hence the ban. If you were lucky enough to get DACA before your 18th birthday, then the 10 year ban does not apply to you.

However, if, like me, you are looking at a 10 year ban, there is a bit of hope in the form of a 212(d)(3)(A) waiver. I first heard of this waiver from the immigration adviser I had used for my DACA applications, and according to her they were not that hard to get. In order to apply for it I would first have to apply for a tourist visa, where I would be found inadmissible and given the 10 year ban. Once denied I would be able to apply for the waiver and then reapply for the visa.

In July, five months after moving to Canada I made an appointment to request a tourist visa. The whole experience was pretty awful: I was shuffled from room to room adorned with portraits of Donald Trump, searched, and fingerprinted. After waiting in line for about two hours I finally got to the window with the officer. Once there I was asked the basics, and all was going OK until he asked if I had been in the US before. From there I proceeded to explain my situation, all within earshot of everyone waiting in line behind me. He then asked me for my DACA approval letter, but I only had my work permit with me at the time. At that point the appointment was over. He gave me a paper with an email address and asked me to email him my first DACA approval letter along with a copy of the first DACA application I submitted.

I submitted the documents requested and proceeded to wait. A month later I received a call from the same officer. He wanted to tell me in person before I received the email that my visa application was going to be denied because I had accumulated unlawful time in the US, and that I would also be receiving a 10 year ban. I already knew this would happen, but it stung to hear it nonetheless. The officer was very kind and understanding, and he told me he understood that I had arrived as a child, and had applied for DACA when it became available. He then told me that he would be submitting a request to get the 10 year ban waived for me, but that there were no guarantees and that the processing time would be long.

After waiting the usual processing time of 180 days and not hearing anything back, I sent an email asking about my application. I was then informed that although they usually process waivers in 180 days it could take up to several years. At that point I let my parents know I would not be coming for Christmas and went back to waiting without much expectation. It was a few weeks later after that exchange that I received the disappointing email informing me that my waiver had been denied. This time the officer did not call me beforehand to explain and answer my questions. I like to think it is because he felt bad. Anyhow, I emailed back asking for the reason, and whether the ban would still apply after I became a Canadian citizen. Below is the response I received:

The request for a waiver was denied based on how recently your period of unlawful stay in the United States concluded among other considerations. This ineligibility (Section 2(a)(9)(B)(I)(II) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act) will apply regardless of your nationality for a period of ten years from the date of your departure from the United States. You are welcome to apply for a visa again in the future and request a waiver of the ineligibility.

I’m a bit sad about this outcome, a bit more than I though I would be, but I think it is just the time of year. But mostly I am angry and frustrated at their hypocrisy. They are always shouting about how we should leave and do it the right way. Well, we did, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Anyway, I will try again once we buy a house here or become citizens, whichever happens first. I think that will help show we have every intention of staying in Canada and we are not a risk for overstaying our visa.

Sorry for the downer post, especially today (Happy New Year everyone!). But this story is not all gloom and doom. Since we were not able to travel for the holidays back to the middle of nowhere US, we took the opportunity fulfill a long-time dream to travel to Europe for the very first time, no visa required! Below are some pictures from our trip. 🙂

32 thoughts on “Travelling to the US after moving to Canada as a former DACA recepient”

  1. D, I sent you an email regarding this post but forgot to ask that you keep me posted on whether the outlook changes when you become a Canadian citizen. Thanks! Happy New Year!

  2. It’s unfortunate that you’ll have to stay away for awhile, but it’s so awesome that the opportunity to see the rest of the world has opened up to both of you. I’m hoping I’ll be able to emigrate there myself this year. Looking forward to more updates from you. Happy New Year! 🙂

      1. I didn’t get my ITA yet, but I’m hoping it’ll happen in one of the draws this month or next. I want to move to Ontario.

      2. I didn’t get an ITA yet, but I’m hoping it’ll happen in one of the draws this month or next. I want to move to Ontario.

  3. You guys mentioned that you were working on moving your retirement accounts from the us to canada.
    I want to open up an ira since I just entered college, but I’m worried about how it would transfer if I were to immigrate to canada. How is it going for you?

    1. Honestly it is a bit complicated. We are thinking we are just going to leave them in the states until we reach retirement age. We have considered seeking the advice of a professional, but it is super expensive!

  4. Great post, D, and happy to see travel pictures of Europe. Do you know if you’ll be able to get a transit visa for the US if you’re traveling to Europe or South America, or anywhere else really?

    I’m moving up to BC in a few months from California! My PR paper expires on 5/15

    1. Hi Ish! That is fantastic! Will you be moving to Vancouver?

      I haven’t looked into transit visas, and to be honest I didn’t even realize they were a thing. But I wouldn’t worry about that too much, I have found there are plenty of direct flight to Europe and Latin America (though mostly Mexico). Take care! -D

      1. That’s good to hear!

        I’ll be crossing the border on the road, so Vancouver, BC will be the first stop. I don’t have my housing or anything else planned out yet, so depending on how expensive it looks, I might keep on driving east.

      2. Another question. As a Canadian PR holder but not a citizen (yet), do we need visas to travel to other countries? Is the visa free travel possible, or we have to get visas for countries based on our native passport, for now?

        1. It would be based on your native passport. However, for countries that do require visa I think it is much easier to get by having Canadian PR.

  5. So I moved to Toronto as well. Got a job and Settled but I kinda started feeling depressed because of all this weather and coldness. How did you coped with it ?

    1. Hi there! Are you alone? The first couple weeks can be tough, it is a huge life change. My first suggestion is to put all your efforts into meeting people so you don’t feel isolated. Also, some vitamin D might help as well. Did you get a Canadian number yet? If you are up for a chat send me your number (canadaquestions@gmail.com), I would love to talk to you.

      -D

  6. Hi,
    I’m in your same situation plus a bit more time. I’ve been here over five years and became a citizen in April. I have just applied for the waiver in Nov. I will let you know how it goes. Keep hope alive. I haven’t seen my family in 5 years and it sucks but it will be worth it in the end to not feel like they are hunting us down for trying to be productive members of society.

    1. Hi there. Update quicker than I thought. My waiver was approved! There’s hope yet. It’s for one year. I was told if approved, the second time I apply it will be for 5 yrs so after the second waiver gets approved (hopefully) I won’t have to deal with the waiver again as my 10 yr barr will be up before the 5 yr waiver expires. Keep hope alive!

      1. That is awesome! What a great Christmas gift! 🙂
        Are you on the fb group? I think everyone there would love to hear about this.

        Happy Holidays!
        -D

        1. Just thought of a question: Did you use a lawyer or write something up? Or did you just show up and get recommended for the waiver by the officer?

          1. I’m not sure what facebook group you refer to so no? 😛

            I used a lawyer for my permanent residency but not for my citizenship application. I got really lucky after I became a citizen. I decided to try to cross the border first before flying and getting turned back and being out that money since I knew there was high risk of getting turned back. The Border Patrol officers were actually really kind (we know how that can be when it comes to immigration workers). They told me to fill out the form and bring it back to them. They check it for you and since it’s their job are likely to do a better job advising you on it. They also told me it was cheaper to pay there than to submit online ($580 at the office vs $900+ online. US dollars at that). I got all my paperwork together and went back and they were super helpful!

          2. Oh wow! I didn’t even know you could apply at the border.

            We have a fb group called The Leaf Network, you should check it out! 🙂

  7. Hello, I was also a DACA recipient until last year when I decided to leave the US (well knowing I would be subject to a 10 year ban). Did any of you guys ever obtained Advance Parole while under DACA? I heard that reentering the U.S. under Advance Parole wipes away the original unlawful presence and it’s penalties.

    1. That’s not true, no.

      Advance parole just clears away entry without inspection, so that you can get a waiver within country when you adjust status.

  8. Hi D,

    I’m in a similar position now as you were in 2017. With very little hope of a resolution happening in the States, I’m strongly considering taking the plunge and trying for Canada. Like you said in your home page, it is very confusing trying to figure out how to do it in our specific situation so I’m extremely grateful to find your post today. I’m very sorry to hear about the 10 year ban that was placed on you. I also didn’t get Daca until after I was already 18. I had turned 18 in June of 2012 and it passed in August 2012…missed it by 2 months, how lucky is that lol. I’m not sure if that places a 10 year ban on me as well but I’m trying to wrap my head around the possibility. I’m so glad you were finally able to travel to Europe, it’s been a lifelong dream of mine as well and seeing your photos was wonderful. I guess my final question is this, was it worth it and do you wish you had just done it sooner? I have a fear of obviously imploding my life here and it not being worth leaving my friends, family and home only to realize it wasn’t worth the freedom. Anyways, I’m a little emotional right now, I feel like I’m at a fork in my life right now and something needs to change. Would love any advice from you. Hope you’re well. Best, Jasmine.

    1. Hi Jasmine! I am currently at work, so I apologize for the short response. However, I wanted to share with you some good news. The rule is that if you accrued more than 180 days, but less than 1 year, you only get 3 years, not 10. I also think (you will need to verify this) that if you only accrued two months you wouldn’t even get the 3 years. I left you a link to the source below. As for whether it was worth it, for us it was, but this might not be true for you. In the US we felt in limbo, like our life was on pause, here can finally be normal people. As to doing it earlier, realistically it would not have been possible, but I am glad we didn’t take any longer than we did 🙂

      Take care,
      -D

      https://www.uscis.gov/legal-resources/unlawful-presence-and-bars-admissibility

      1. Hi D,

        Thank you so much for your response and the information you provided! I can’t tell you how relieving that is to hear. Since my original post, I have come to the same decision as you two. I submitted my application on Feb 20th and have been anxiously checking my email every day in the hopes of seeing an invitation to apply. My CRS score came out to be 438 so I’m not sure how far deep that puts me in the pool of candidates and with all the chaos of COVID-19, I’m worried things may get even more delayed. Alas, I am trying to remain optimistic! I have been formulating a plan in my head ever since I applied that I really hope I get to put into action — I’m planning on taking some time off professionally to travel the world once I’m on the other side of this application process. I’m on this journey solo and doing something like taking a year off to travel has never felt like it was even in the realm of possibilities till now. After going through this process and traveling to Europe, do you have any advice on how something like this could be possible from a legal standpoint? Not yet sure if I need a visa to travel to places like Asia or New Zealand (those and Europe are on my list) or if it’s okay to stay out of Canada for that long after getting the initial approval.

        I hope you and your husband are still enjoying Calgary, I have cousins that live there so I will hopefully be venturing there myself some day soon. When that happens, I would really love to take you out to lunch or something to thank you for what you’ve done by creating this site, I’ve never felt this optimistic or excited about my situation in my entire life and I’m grateful to you for giving me that. I’m 26 and totally normal I promise haha.

        Jasmine

        1. You’ll be traveling on your home country’s passport until you get Canadian citizenship. That could mean that you require a visa, or it might not, depending on which country that is.

          As for how long you can stay out of Canada and still be able to renew your permanent residence, it’s pretty low – only 730 days out of the five years before renewal. So, you could theoretically be spending more than half your time traveling around.

        2. I’m so happy to hear you decided to pull the trigger! Definitely keep us updated! I hope I get the change to meet you in Calgary soon. 🙂

          P.S. As Pierre commented below, traveling around the word is absolutely a possibility!

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