What is DACA?
DACA is an abbreviation for a program created by President Obama in 2012. It stands “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” DACA is a program which permits certain undocumented people who are in the U.S. to continue to stay in the country without the threat of being deported from the country. One of the benefits of DACA is that it allows some who obtain work authorization. DACA has very specific requirements which are described below including the payment of a $495 application fee (which can be waived under certain circumstances). If you are interested in applying for DACA you should consult with one of the many non-profits that are available to provide assistance which can be found on the Resource and How to Find a Lawyer Page. This site is only intended to address more general questions about DACA.
One thing to remember about DACA is that it is merely a decision by the previous President to not use the government legal authority to deport certain persons. Instead those resources were used to deport other people. The decision about how those resources might be used in the future could be changed by the current President and his appointees in the Department of Homeland Security.
What are the eligibility requirements for DACA?
Some of the requirements that must be met in order to be granted DACA benefits include providing proof that the person has entered the United States before reaching his/her sixteenth birthday. The applicant must show that they have lived continuously in the United States since June 15, 2010 through the time that they file their application. There is a very technical requirement in the program that the applicant must prove not just that they have been living in the U.S. since June 15, 2010 but that they were actually in the country on June 15, 2012, and not in a lawful status at the time. The applicant must also show that they are currently in school, have graduated, or obtained a high school certificate of completion, or a general education development (GED) or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or Armed Forced of the United states. The final requirement is that the person must be able to show that they have not been convicted of a felony or “significant misdemeanors.” Someone who has been convicted of hree or more other misdemeanors or otherwise pose a threat to national security is not eligible for DACA.
The DACA requirements and guidelines are discussed in further detail on the USCIS website. If you have questions you should speak with a lawyer and should not rely on the USCIS website other than for general information. Contacting USCIS about whether you are eligible for DACA could put you at risk. (See https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca)
What Does DACA Do?
Unlike programs such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or asylum, a person who has been granted DACA has a very limited status. While they are assured that they will not be deported and USCIS gives them permission to work, the status they have does not allow them to leave and return to the US unless they have obtained before their departure. Also the permission the DACA recipient has to remain in the U.S. could be taken away at any time. At the same time, while DACA does not provide a formal legal status and a person cannot use it to obtain permanent resident, if the person can separately qualify for permanent residence they are free to do so. Surely being in the U.S., working, going to school are important steps that could later lead to a more permanent lawful status. So this is a temporary program which can be revoked at any time.
If your DACA application has been approved then the two benefits you gain are the protection from deportation and permission to work in the U.S. (if you have applied for this benefit). This will last as long as the program exists and you continue to fall within the program’s guidelines. When a DACA application is approved it is normally for two years. After the two years period has expired you may be able to renew again for another period as long as the program continues to exist and you meet its requirements. Therefore it is recommended that you speak to a licensed (and reputable) immigration attorney even when you are renewing your application.
If you are considering whether to submit an application for the first-time you should are recommended to speak with an immigration attorney as soon as possible and certainly before you submit an application.
While the DACA program has not been cancelled by the new Administration, it is not clear at this time what will happen. There is no guarantee that it will continue to exist into the future.