What is DACA?
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security created an administrative program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which grants undocumented individuals who arrived here as children the opportunity to remain and work for a renewable period of two years. DACA is not a law, and it does not grant lawful permanent residence. It is only meant as temporary protection from deportation. A person enrolled in DACA may obtain a social security number and apply for a driver’s license. An estimated 700,000 individuals are enrolled in DACA.
On September 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced the ending of the DACA program, resulting in numerous lawsuits. Only applications to renew or reinstate DACA were accepted. First-time applications were rejected. Individuals who had never applied for DACA because of age or other reason were left without status or work permit.
Litigation eventually made its way up to the Supreme Court. The Court did not say whether DACA was lawful or not. Instead it ruled that the government violated federal law by not following procedures when it ended DACA, leaving the program intact for the time being. Still, USCIS refused to accept initial DACA applications and even reduced the work permit period to one year for recent renewal requests.
Can individuals apply for DACA now for the first time?
Yes, on December 7, 2020, USCIS announced it would accept and process new DACA applications following a recent federal court order. The agency also changed the work validity period back to two years. The new applications will be processed under the original DACA guidelines.
What are the age requirements to file an initial DACA application?
There are three important age requirements for DACA. To qualify, applicants must:
- Be at least 15 years of age at the time of filing. However, applicants younger than 15 years may still apply for DACA if they are currently in removal proceedings, have a final removal order, or have a voluntary departure order and are not currently detained;
- Show they were under 16 years of age at time of entry into the U.S; and
- Have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 (when DACA was announced)
What are the other basic requirements for an initial DACA application?
Additionally, an applicant for first time DACA benefits must show that he or she:
- Continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 up to the present time;
- Was physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time of filing;
- Was not lawfully in the U.S. or status expired as of June 15, 2012;
- Is currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school (diploma), have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or has been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces or Coast Guard; and
- Has not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, 3 or more other misdemeanors, and not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
What are the requirements to renew my DACA?
To renew DACA, an applicant must meet the guidelines for initial DACA up to the present time, and must:
- Have not depart the United States on or after August 15, 2012 without a travel permit;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since obtaining initial DACA, up to the present time; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
When should I renew my DACA?
It is advised that you file your renewal application within 150 days of your DACA expiration.
Can DACA beneficiaries apply for an international travel permit?
Yes, USCIS is accepting applications for international travel, also known as “advance parole.” Applicants must already be approved for DACA before they request this travel permit. This benefit is not automatically given, however. An applicant must demonstrate a clear urgent need for travel abroad, such as a family emergency or business necessity. USCIS will process these advance parole requests under the original DACA guidance.
What is next?
The DACA program is currently being litigated in the lower courts. The incoming administration is likely to try and keep DACA alive until there is a legislative solution. Though the recent court victories are welcomed, the fight for permanent protections continue. This could happen through the passage of laws that provide legal permanent resident status and eventual pathway to citizenship for the millions of Dreamers living in the U.S.