What is deferred action?
Deferred action is a kind of temporary relief from deportation. It is granted on a case-by-case basis. If you are granted DACA relief, you will not be deported or sent back to your country for a period of two years. It is important to note that deferred action does not grant you lawful immigration status. However, you will also not accrue any additional unlawful presence in the U.S.
Who is eligible to apply for DACA?
You must be able to prove that you meet the following requirements:
That on June 15, 2012:
- You were physically present in the U.S.;
- You had not yet turned 31 years old;
- When you came to the United States, you were not yet 16 years old; and
- You either entered without inspection before that date, or your lawful immigration status expired as of that date.
And that as of the date of your DACA application:
- You are at least 15 years old*;
- You have continuously lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- You have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and
- You must either:
- Be currently in school;
- Have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school;
- Have obtained a GED (general education development) certificate; or
- Be an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard or Armed Forces.
* The 15-year-old age minimum does not apply if you are in removal proceedings, have a final removal order, or have a voluntary departure order, and if you are not in immigration detention.
How much does applying for DACA cost?
The application fee is $465, which consists of a $380 fee for the employment authorization application and an $85 fee for the biometrics (fingerprinting and a taking of your photo to help verify your identity and conduct a background check).
Fee waivers are not available. However, fee exemptions are available in very limited circumstances.
How do I prove that qualify for DACA?
Applying for DACA requires direct documentary evidence such as financial records (such as rental contracts, utility bills, credit card statements), school records (such as diplomas, GED certificates, transcripts), employment records, military records, and records of any past criminal activity. Gathering these documents take time. Be sure to consult an attorney to make sure that you gather sufficient proof of your DACA qualifications.
What does “continuously” living in the U.S. mean? Must I never have left the country?
Brief, casual, and innocent absences from the U.S. do not count against your continuous residence in the U.S. An absence will be considered “brief, casual, and innocent” if it meets all of the following requirements:
- It was before August 15, 2012;
- It was short and reasonably calculated to accomplish the purpose of the absence;
- It was not due to an order of exclusion, deportation, or removal;
- It was not due to an order of voluntary departure, or an administrative grant of voluntary departure before an applicant was placed in deportation or removal proceedings; and
- Its purpose, or your actions while outside of the U.S., was not illegal.
What offenses qualify as a felony?
A felony is a federal, state, or local crime punishable by imprisonment for a term of one year or more.
What is a “significant misdemeanor”?
For the purposes of the DACA process, a significant misdemeanor is a misdemeanor as classified by federal law (the maximum term of imprisonment is one year or less but greater than five days) and meets the following requirements:
- Regardless of the sentence imposed, is an offense of domestic violence; sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm; drug distribution or trafficking; or, driving under the influence; or,
- If not an offense listed above, is one for which you were sentenced to imprisonment of more than 90 days.
What qualifies as a threat to national security or public safety?
This is a question subject to the discretion of USCIS. However, indicators that you pose such a threat include, but are not limited to, gang membership, participation in criminal activities, or participation in activities that threaten the United States.
What does “currently in school” mean?
On the date you submit your DACA application, you must be enrolled in one of the following kinds of schools or programs:
- A public or private elementary school, junior high or middle school, high or secondary school;
- A literacy or career training program (including vocational training) that will lead to placement in post-secondary education, job training, or employment;
- An education program assisting students either to earn a high school diploma (or its recognized equivalent under state law) or to pass a General Education Development (GED) exam (or other equivalent exam authorized by the state).
Enrollment in an ESL (English as a Second Language) program may qualify as “currently in school” only if such enrollment is a prerequisite for your placement in post-secondary education, job training, or employment, and you are working toward such placement.
Can I work if I am granted deferred action?
Yes, you are eligible for employment authorization for the DACA period if you can demonstrate an economic need for employment.
Can I get a driver’s license if I am granted deferred action?
A grant of DACA relief allows you to get a driver’s license. In California, the grant of DACA relief qualifies as proof of lawful presence required to obtain a driver’s license. You will also need to have a social security card, which you can obtain after being granted deferred action, and proof of your birth and identity (such as through your birth certificate).
Can I leave the U.S. if I am granted DACA relief?
You may leave the U.S. only if you apply for and receive permission (called “advanced parole”) after being granted deferred action and before traveling. The application fee is $360. Generally, advanced parole is granted only for humanitarian, educational, or employment reasons. If you leave the country without receiving advanced parole, you will not be permitted back into the U.S. Additionally, receiving advanced parole does not necessarily guarantee that you will be able to re-enter the U.S. Check with an attorney before leaving the U.S.
How long do DACA benefits last? Are extensions or renewals available?
DACA relief lasts for two years. You may apply for a renewal of DACA relief.
What is the timeline for the renewal process?
You may apply for renewal four months before the expiration of your current DACA relief (but no earlier than five months, or 150 days, before expiration). To determine when your DACA period expires, look at the I-797 Notice of Action under “Notice Type,” or at your Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) card under “Card Expires.”
Can I be deported if I apply for DACA?
It is possible that if you apply for DACA relief, and USCIS determines that you do not meet the requirements for reasons of criminal offense, fraud, or a threat to national security of public safety, your case can be referred to ICE. Consult an attorney to determine the potential risks of applying for DACA relief as related to your particular circumstances.
What is the difference between DACA and the Dream Act?
DACA is a form of relief created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an agency that is part of the executive branch of the U.S. government. It does not grant you lawful status in the U.S. Only Congress, with its authority to create laws, can create a path to permanent lawful status and citizenship. The Dream Act is a proposed law that Congress must pass before it can take effect.