UW Study Abroad offers a variety of programs that offer various benefits for students from all backgrounds in locations including Wisconsin, the United States, and abroad. While you never have to disclose your immigration status to anyone at UW Study Abroad, for undocumented and DACA students, choosing the right program is important because there are various logistical, financial, and legal considerations. We are here to help you as you feel comfortable sharing your status and concerns related to your status. Any information you disclose will be kept private. Any information you disclose would only be shared with individuals with a legitimate need to know.
Students without a legal status in the United States are encouraged not to participate in a program outside of the United States because of the likelihood of not being able to reenter the U.S., but should consider a virtual program or a domestic program. Completing a virtual program or a program within the U.S. can provide an intercultural or global learning experience.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly known as “DACA”, is a program that allows some unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to request deferred removal action. Individuals granted DACA status are allowed to stay in the U.S. for generally a two-year period, subject to renewal, and to also obtain work authorization.
DACA has been in a period of changes since 2017, and it has been unclear the future of the DACA program. DACA students at one time had the opportunity to apply for specific permission to leave and re-enter the U.S. for employment, humanitarian and educational reasons, including potentially studying abroad on approved university programs, using a travel document known as Advance Parole.
Despite possessing this advance permission to return to the U.S., a returning DACA recipient was considered an applicant for admission and could still be subject to removal proceedings based upon applicable grounds of inadmissibility. Depending on the DACA student’s specific immigration history, departure from the U.S. and attempted use of an Advance Parole Document may not have resulted in their successful return to the U.S. and could have serious negative consequences for their future immigration process. UW Study Abroad cannot guarantee re-entry back into the U.S. for DACA students, even if you participate in an approved UW Study Abroad program. Therefore, we strongly recommend that any DACA student seek the counsel of an experienced immigration lawyer. You can find free legal services here:
- Immigrant Justice Clinic (IJC) at UW-Madison’s Law School
Provides legal services to Wisconsin’s under-served immigrant community and in particular, indigent non-citizens. This may include filing applications for humanitarian relief available to non-citizen victims of crime, persecution, and human trafficking, or defending non-citizens facing removal in Immigration Court.
Please note that IJC does not assist with student or employment visas. For inquiries and questions about IJC’s legal services, please call: 608-890-3753.
- Community Immigration Law Center
Conducts free legal intakes at Christ Presbyterian Church, 944 East Gorham Street, every other Friday. Any person can show up, receive an intake, and have the opportunity to speak with an immigration attorney.
While traveling internationally may be possible for some DACA students, given the uncertainty of being able to reenter the U.S., we suggest that DACA students also consider participating in a domestic or virtual program to remove the potential challenges of reentering the U.S.
UW Study Abroad virtual programs are online learning experiences that allow you to explore global issues and connect with international instructors and local community members in an interactive virtual setting. Virtual programs can have multiple components, both synchronous and asynchronous, which take the form of interactive workshops hosted by organizations abroad, classes and question-and-answer sessions with international experts, virtual tours of cultural sites, live foreign language practice, or a virtual internship with an international company or organization, among others.
You can learn more about virtual programs here.
While there has been an emphasis on leaving the U.S. to experience global learning, with the U.S. having such diverse populations of peoples and regions, domestic learning can provide impactful global learning opportunities. Undocumented students may experience challenges with domestic programs (such as arriving to your program location), but these challenges are more easily overcome than with traveling outside the U.S.
Funding a Program
Generally, undocumented and DACA students are not eligible for federal, state, or institutional need-based financial aid because they require U.S. citizenship or other eligible non-citizen status. However, undocumented and DACA students may be eligible for UW Study Abroad and UW-Madison scholarships. Students should use the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub (WiSH) to review available scholarships at UW-Madison.
Questions to ask:
- As an undocumented or DACA student, what are your academic and personal goals for participating in a UW Study Abroad program?
- Have you consulted with an immigration attorney regarding your status?
- Do you have the necessary government-issued identification to travel by airplane within the U.S. or abroad? If not, can you get to your location by ground transportation?
- What is your host institution or program’s policy for undocumented or DACA students?
- Does the program or institution have an advisor or student support services for undocumented or DACA students?
- Are you eligible to renew your DACA benefits in the near future?
- Are there additional funding sources you can look into?
- Is there an immigrant rights advocacy agency near your program’s location that could provide support if needed?
- Based on your intersecting identity factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and citizenship status, how will you be perceived in your host community? What stereotypes or assumptions might you encounter?
Additional resources for DACA students at UW-Madison can be found here.
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