On June 15, 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would not deport certain undocumented youth who came to the United States as children. Certain individuals that entered the United States through no fault of their own as young children and meet certain requirements will be considered for relief from removal from the country and will not be placed into removal proceedings. Under a directive from the DHS secretary, these youth may be granted a type of temporary permission to stay in the U.S. called “deferred action.” The Obama administration called this program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. In order for individuals to benefit from this program certain requirement must be fulfilled. Only those individuals who can prove with documents that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. 

DACA Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for deferred action, individuals must:

  1. Entered the U.S prior to the age of 16;
  2. Lived for a continuous period of 5 years before June 15, 2012 and must be present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012; 
  3. The Applicant must be in school, or have graduated from high school or obtained a GED certificate or honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the U.S.;
  4. The Applicant cannot have by convicted of a felony a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or be a threat to national security or public safety;
  5. The Applicant must be at least 15 years old but cannot be over the age of 30; 
  6. A background check must be completed. 

Key Points About DACA

  • The approval is discretionary
  • It is not a lawful status
  • A person with DACA will not accrue unlawful presence while the person has DACA
  • It does not clear any past or future periods of unlawful presence.  
  • A person can apply for employment authorization along with DACA. 

Frequent Questions Relating to DACA

Are DACA recipients eligible to apply for a work permit??

Yes. Individuals with DACA may apply for a work permit but must demonstrate an economic necessity for their employment.

Does DACA provide a pathway for legal permanent status? 

No. It does not give a person a status and it does not make a person eligible to apply for a green card. 

Why is DACA only for 2 years? 

It is granted for 2 years and can be renewed for additional 2 year periods so long as all requirements are met. 

Will an application for employment authorization also have to be filed when renewing DACA?

Yes. An individual must apply to renew employment authorization concurrently when filing to renew.

Can a person with a final order of removal also obtain DACA? Does this policy apply to those who are subject to a final order of removal?

Yes. Individuals with a final order of removal can also obtain DACA so long as all requirements are met. 

Can a person with an administrative closure of a removal case obtain DACA?  

Yes. Individuals with an administrative closure order are eligible.

Does a background check have to be completed prior to obtaining DACA? 

Yes. After applying individuals will be fingerprinted and a background check will be conducted to verify the applicant’s immigration and criminal history.  

What documentation will be sufficient to demonstrate that an individual came to the U.S. before the age of 16?

Applicants can use many different types of documents to establish presence in the U.S. including financial documents, medical records, education documents, military records. 

What documentation will be sufficient to demonstrate that an individual has resided in the United States for a least five years preceding June 15, 2012?

These includes but is not limited to: financial records, medical records, school records, employment records, and military records.

What is considered a felony for DACA purposes?

A felony is a federal/state/local criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for a term of more than one year.

What is considered a significant misdemeanor for DACA purposes ?

A significant misdemeanor is a federal/state/local criminal offense punishable by no more than one year of imprisonment. But if the offense involves: violence, threats, or assault, including domestic violence; sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary, larceny, or fraud; driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs; obstruction of justice or bribery; unlawful flight from arrest, prosecution, or the scene of an accident; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; drug distribution or trafficking; or unlawful possession of drugs then no jail time is required.

How many non-significant misdemeanors can an applicant have without making the applicant ineligible?

A person that is convicted of 3 or more misdemeanors not arising on the same day and not from the same act or omission is ineligible. 

What is considered a national security or public safety threat for DACA?

Some examples include gang membership, activities that threaten the U.S., organized crime and other offenses. 

Do dependents and family members of those with DACA also obtain DACA?  

No. Every Applicant must meet the requirement independently. DACA does not automatically grant a status to family members. 

If a person is denied DACA can they be placed in removal proceedings?  

Yes, if a person is denied DACA and has certain criminal history, the person can be placed in removal proceedings. This is not automatic as ICE will make a determination on a case-by-case basis. 

Can a person with DACA travel outside of the United States? 

No, a person with DACA cannot automatically travel outside of the United States. A person with DACA must first be approved for an Advance Parole document prior to departing the U.S. in order to be able to return.