Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was passed by President Obama’s executive order to allow certain undocumented immigrants that arrived before 2007 and were younger than 16 at the time to be exempted from deportation and to work. The Department of Homeland Security makes clear that DACA is not a path to citizenship or a green card. Instead, the program is intended to permit previously undocumented immigrants to work, attend school and live openly without fear of deportation.
Are You Eligible for DACA?
Before you identify yourself as an undocumented immigrant, make sure you are eligible for relief from deportation. You must at least meet these criteria for relief under DACA:
- You were younger than 16 when you entered the United States.
- Your birthday is after June 15, 1981.
- You entered the United States before 2007 and have lived here continuously since.
- You were physically present in the country when you made your DACA request to USCIS and on June 15, 2012.
- You were not in any lawful status on June 15, 2012. In other words, you were not in the U.S. on another visa.
- You have graduated from high school or received your GED, you are currently enrolled in school or you have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard or armed forces.
- You have not been convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors and you are not considered a threat to public safety or national security.
Applying for DACA Benefits
To apply for DACA benefits, you must be at least 15 years old unless you have a final removal or voluntary departure order or are currently in removal proceedings, in which case you can apply at any age.
You must file these forms with USCIS:
- I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
- I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- G-1145, to receive electronic notifications from USCIS
Be sure to include evidence of each requirement with your application.
Work authorization is granted in renewable two-year increments. Every two years, you must apply for another work permit on form I-765 to be entitled to work.
Brief, casual trips outside of the country before August 15, 2012 may not affect your eligibility for DACA benefits. However, you may be denied DACA status for trips taken after that date or if the USCIS does not deem your trip to be brief, casual and innocent. Once USCIS approves your application for DACA benefits, you can apply for advance parole to travel outside the country.
Risks to Applying for DACA
DACA should not be confused with the DREAM Act, which grants a path to citizenship to certain unlawful immigrants. The DREAM Act has been introduced to congress, but has not been passed. DACA benefits provide only a temporary stay of deportation and the right to work for two-year periods. You have no guarantee of your status in the future. Furthermore, if you apply and are not approved, you have exposed yourself as undocumented and could potentially be placed in deportation proceedings.
Consider talking to an immigration lawyer to better understand the benefits and risks and to determine the action that is best for you.
*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice