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What is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)?

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program was announced on June 15, 2012 by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano.  The program allows certain young individuals who came to the U.S. as children, without documentation or who have overstayed their valid documentation, an opportunity to request work authorization and to defer their removal from the country for a period of two years.  Individuals who achieved DACA status could renew their DACA status in two-year increments.  Obtaining DACA status, by itself though, does not provide individuals with lawful status in the U.S.

The program became effective on August 15, 2012, when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that administers the program, began accepting DACA applications. The DACA program was implemented to offset the case burden on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by targeting the biggest threats to public safety, national security and fraudulent cases in immigration.  As of July 2013, USCIS has received more than a total of 537,000 applications, approved more than 400,000 applications and denied more than 5,300 applications.

To qualify for DACA, applicants must meet the following criteria (also available here):

  1. On June 15, 2012 or before, was under the age of 31;
  2. Arrived in the U.S. before reaching age 16;
  3. Lived continuously (without interruption) in the U.S. since Jun 15, 2007 to the time of DACA filing;
  4. Physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and at the time of DACA filing;
  5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
  6. Is currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, a GED certificate, or honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the U.S.;
  7. Has not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and does not pose any threat to national security or public safety.

Residency Requirement

Individuals must have continuously resided in U.S. since June 15, 2007 to present (for five years):

  • A brief casual and/or innocent trip outside of the U.S. may not necessarily interrupt the continuously residency requirement, so long as the trip occurred before Aug 15, 2012.
  • Any travel outside the U.S. after August 15, 2012 will disqualify an individual.
  • Individuals applying for Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals who wish to travel outside the U.S. must apply for an Advance Parole (Form I-131) and pay the application fee for an Advance Parole ($360) after the Deferred Action request has been first made to USCIS.   Advance Parole applications should be not be filed concurrently with a request for Deferred Action.  (Generally, USCIS will only grant an Advance Parole for travel for humanitarian, education, or employment reasons.)
  • Individuals must be physically present in U.S. on June 15, 2012 and at time a request for Deferred Action is made to USCIS.

Criminal History Screening Requirement

A conviction of driving under the influence (DUI or DWI) is considered a significant misdemeanor regardless of the punishment imposed.  Minor traffic offenses (including driving without a license) will not generally bar a grant of deferred action but a requestor’s entire criminal history will be reviewed. If the criminal offense is not considered a national security, fraud, or public safety risk, then it will not be referred to ICE.

Knowing misrepresentations will subject an individual to criminal and/or removal proceedings from the U.S.

The Use of Affidavits and Circumstantial Evidence

Affidavits alone will not be sufficient to satisfy any of the criteria for a request for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals but they may be used to supporting evidence only if the documentary evidence is insufficient or lacking.  Circumstantial evidence may be used in the following instances:

  • Showing an individual was physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, came to U.S. before their 16th birthday, and/or satisfied the five-year continuous residency requirement (so long as some evidence was available).
  • Used to fill in gaps of length of residence in the U.S.
  • Used to show travel outside the U.S. was brief, casual and innocent.

Disclosure of Data to Other Government Agencies

Director Mayorkas indicated that information provided to USCIS on a request for Deferred Action is protected from disclosure to ICE and CBP for the purpose of immigration proceedings, unless the requester meets the criteria for a Notice to Appear (NTA) in the NTA Guidance.

If the Deferred Action request is granted, the individual will not be referred to ICE but the information may be shared with national security law enforcement agencies for purposes other than removal.  The sharing of data may include data belonging to family members and guardians, in addition to data belonging to the individual applicant.

Filing Procedures

The DACA application requires filing the following:

  1. Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals;
  2. I-1765, Application for Employment Authorization;
  3. I-765WS, Worksheet;
  4. Payment of government fee: $465 (includes $380 and $85 for biometric services).