Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Legal Protections From Deportation
Following federal court orders in 2021, DACA renewal remains available, but USCIS is not granting initial requests as of July 16, 2021. This situation is subject to change, which will be reflected on the USCIS website.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was created in 2012 by the administration of President Barack Obama. After President Donald Trump took office in 2016, its survival became threatened. In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the program would be phased out, but several federal courts ruled that it must continue. Thus, the program faces an uncertain future. DACA gives foreign nationals who came to the U.S. as children the right to seek a two-year period of protection from deportation, as long as they meet the eligibility requirements of the program. It confers only a limited set of rights, including a work permit but not a green card or a path to citizenship. Family members of DACA recipients do not get any derivative rights. DACA protection can be renewed after the initial two-year period if the program remains in effect.
An individual must be at least 15 years old to request DACA unless they are currently in removal proceedings or have a final removal or voluntary departure order.
If your DACA status expires, you may be able to renew it. Ideally, you should file for renewal between 120 and 150 days before your status expires. Sometimes foreign nationals file more than 150 days ahead and receive a renewal, but this is not guaranteed, and USCIS will not return your filing fee if it determines that you filed too early. You must not have left the U.S. without first obtaining advance parole, but traveling as a DACA recipient with advance parole may still be risky in view of recent robust immigration enforcement practices.
The threshold requirements for DACA eligibility may change over time. Currently, the program applies to foreign nationals who came to the U.S. before they turned 16 and who have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. (A brief, minor departure before August 15, 2012 will most likely not affect their eligibility.) An applicant must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. An applicant also must have been physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and on the date of their application. You can be eligible either if you arrived in the U.S. without inspection before June 15, 2012 or if you lost your legal status in the U.S. before June 15, 2012. You must not have a felony conviction, a conviction of a significant misdemeanor, or three or more ordinary misdemeanor convictions on your record, and you must not pose a risk to public safety or national security. Finally, DACA is available only to foreign nationals who are currently enrolled in school, have graduated from high school or have received a certificate of completion or a GED certificate, or have received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces or Coast Guard.
Who Is Eligible for DACA?
An individual may request DACA if:
1They were under 31 years old on June 15, 2012
2They arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday
3They have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007
4They were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 (and when they applied for DACA)
5They had no lawful status in the U.S. on June 15, 2012
6They are currently in school, have graduated or earned a certificate of completion or GED from high school, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard or Armed Forces
7They have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety
You must supply proof to USCIS that you meet each specific criterion discussed above. Being unable to satisfy any of the DACA criteria will result in the denial of your application. A common obstacle for applicants is showing that their school qualifies under USCIS rules. Complex issues also can arise from an applicant’s criminal record, as discussed below.
A foreign national may feel reluctant to apply for DACA if they are not sure whether they will be found eligible. Filing the application necessarily involves admitting that they do not have legal status in the U.S., so they could be subject to deportation if the application is denied. To reduce these fears, USCIS has stated that it does not refer cases to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless the case involves a criminal offense, fraud, a threat to national security or public safety, or exceptional circumstances.
Misdemeanors and DACA
In considering whether to file a DACA application, you may wonder which types of crimes qualify as significant misdemeanors. USCIS rules provide that significant misdemeanors include domestic violence, sex crimes, many gun crimes, DUI, burglary, and drug trafficking, regardless of the actual prison term imposed on the individual. A crime also may fall within this category if the foreign national received a prison term longer than 90 days, excluding a suspended sentence or any period of detention while awaiting trial.
By contrast, USCIS defines a non-significant misdemeanor as a misdemeanor that is not classified as a significant misdemeanor but one for which the individual was sentenced to time in custody of 90 days or less.
Eligible individuals should use Form I-821D to request or renew DACA and Form I-765 and Form I-765WS to request employment authorization. All three forms must be filed together to complete a DACA request.