The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, was initiated in 2012 and allows eligible individuals without lawful immigration status to apply for authorization to live and work in the United States. If approved, the individual receives an employment authorization card valid for two years. So long as the program remains in existence, this authorization is renewable every two years.
In September 2017, the Trump Administration took steps to discontinue the DACA program. As a result, no new applications have been accepted for the last few years. On December 7, 2020, under court order, USCIS announced that it would, once again, begin accepting new DACA applications. Additionally, previous renewals that were only issued for 1 year will now be extended to 2 years.
To be eligible for DACA you must meet the following requirements:
- Initial entry into the United States prior to obtaining the age of 16. Departure from the United States and re-entry after the age of 15 does not make you ineligible, so long as each of the other requirements is met. HOWEVER, any departure from the U.S. after August 15, 2012, makes an applicant ineligible.
- Continuous physical presence in the United States since June 15, 2007 (brief absences prior to August 15, 2012, are allowed but are evaluated on a case-by-case basis)
- Physical presence in the United States on June 15, 2012
- Current enrollment in school, high school diploma, or GED. - NOTE: Current enrollment in a GED program fulfills the education requirement. Upon application for renewal, the applicant must show the completion of the program.
- If you have never had DACA before, you must have been born on or after June 16, 1981. - NOTE: Initial applications and renewals after the age of 31 are allowed, so long as the individual was under 31 on June 15, 2012.
- Acceptable criminal record - NOTE: All felony and some misdemeanor convictions (including DWI) render an applicant statutorily ineligible.
Anyone with a criminal record should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to eligibility. If you apply for DACA and are ineligible due to criminal convictions, USCIS may refer your case to immigration court for removal proceedings.
Important Information for Applicants
This is not just a simple registration process and extensive documentation of each eligibility requirement is required. Among other requirements, you must be able to provide proof of physical presence in the United States since June 15, 2007. Only an experienced immigration attorney can help you confirm appropriate documentation for your specific situation.
Additionally, please note the following:
- The DACA program is based on executive active. Therefore, it is subject to discontinuation or amended eligibility requirements. Extensive court action has surrounded the DACA program for several years, so future changes are likely. Anyone who is eligible and wishes to apply should do so immediately.
- Deferred Action is a discretionary decision. Therefore, even if all eligibility requirements are met, the application can still be denied.
- Any negative factors (including working without authorization, traffic violations, failure to pay taxes, use of false social security numbers, and more) should be offset with positive factors showing why the applicant deserves a positive exercise of discretion.
- Denials cannot be appealed, nor can the case be reopened or reconsidered.
- Employment authorization is not automatic. You must show the need to work.
- Make sure you are being represented by a licensed immigration attorney, NOT a notary. Kelli Y. Allen is an attorney licensed by the North Carolina State Bar.