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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Irish Abroad

Undocumented and living in the US? Here's what the new immigration reforms mean for you

In the US it is estimated that there is over 50,000 undocumented Irish citizens.

LAST WEEK PRESIDENT Barack Obama announced the much anticipated package on immigration reforms.

The changes could affect up to five million of America’s estimated 11 million undocumented migrants.

Most of these people have and jobs, but cannot work legally and live fear of deportation.

Undocumented Irish 

In the United States it is estimated that there is over 50,000 undocumented Irish citizens.

So, what does it mean for those living over there? Can they travel home for Christmas?

The short answer is, no.

Speaking to, Limerick-born Caro Kinsella, Attorney and Counselor at Law working in Florida said those looking applying for Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) in the future should not travel outside the US for now.

Why? Kinsella explains that a number of things will be triggered if people leave to return home.

Travelling home 

“Individuals who have been inside the States unlawfully for a period of more than 180 consecutive days, but less than one year, and then depart the US will trigger a 3 year unlawful presence bar. Those who do this will be barred from re-admission for the 3 years from the date of their departure,” said Kinsella.

If you have been inside the States unlawfully for a period of one year or more, and then depart the States you will trigger a 10-year unlawful presence bar, and will be barred from readmission for the 10 years from the date of their departure.

ONLY when you file your application for DAPA with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and it is approved, can you then apply for advance parole.

Advance parole will grant you the freedom to travel internationally and USCIS will determine whether your purpose for international travel is justifiable based on the circumstances you describe in your request.

Kinsella said that generally, USCIS will only grant advance parole if your travel abroad will be in furtherance of:

  • Humanitarian purposes, including travel to obtain medical treatment, attending funeral services for a family member, or visiting an ailing relative
  • Educational purposes, such as semester-abroad programs and academic research
  •  Employment purposes such as overseas assignments, interviews, conferences or, training, or meetings with clients overseas.

It’s important to note that travel for vacation is NOT a valid basis for advance parole.

So, now you know that you shouldn’t be booking those flights just yet, but what about getting the ball rolling?


The Executive Action confers deferred action on certain undocumented families in the States that meet the criteria. Deferred action is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion whereby Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agrees to defer or suspend the removal of a non-citizen. Basically, it is a temporary reprieve from enforcement or deportation.

Kinsella said that if an individual qualifies for deferred action under the President’s Executive Action, they will be eligible to apply for work authorisation for three years.

However, she warned those that are thinking of applying, to contact an experience US immigration attorney before doing anything.

Those who apply for deferred action and are denied could put themselves at serious risk of deportation. It is therefore critically important that those seeking deferred action contact an experienced US immigration attorney before applying, as an immigration attorney must first review their documents and subsequently file a suitable application on their behalf.

She said it is also important to keep in mind, that deferred action does not confer legal status, the grant is temporary, but those granted the temporary status will be eligible to apply for the three year work permit and will be able to live in the US without constant trepidation or fear of deportation.


How do you know if you qualify under the new rules and how do you apply?

There are certain criteria which makes a person eligible.

  • Applicants must have a child that is either US Citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident (green card holder); this child must have been born on or before 20 November 2014
  • Foreign nationals must be physically present inside the States on or before 20 November 2014 and must still be present inside the US on the date they apply for DAPA
  • Foreign national must have been continuously residing in the States since 1 January 2010.
  • All applicants must take and pass a criminal background check
  • Applicants must begin to pay their fair share of taxes

If you think this sounds like you, then you can apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services now, but no later than 180 days after the date of the Obama’s announcement (19 May 2015).

However, Kinsella can not stress enough that there are serious risks involved, adding “those who apply for deferred action and are denied could put themselves at serious risk of deportation”.

She said it it vital that those considering applying contact a seasoned US Immigration attorney to review your case before applying.

For more information on the new immigration laws, you can contact Caro Kinsella here.

Read: 50,000 Irish citizens could be affected by Obama’s immigration law change>

Read: A Galway man is introducing Barack Obama in Chicago tonight>

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