On August 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin accepting applications for deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA). This page will give you an overview about who is eligible for DACA and how to apply.
What is deferred action?
Deferred action is not an immigration status or amnesty. It simply means that DHS has decided to allow you to remain in the United States because deporting you from the United States is not a high priority. Deferred action does not lead to a “green card” or to U.S. citizenship
Can I get a work permit if I am granted deferred action?
Deferred action does make you eligible for an Employment Authorization document (EAD, or “work permit”).
Am I eligible for DACA?
To qualify for deferred action you must meet all of these requirements:
- You were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; and
- You came to the United States before you turned 16; and
- You have lived continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the time you apply; and
- You were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and are present in the U.S. when filing your application; and
- You have no lawful immigration status in the United States as of June 15, 2012 (e.g., you entered without inspection, or your lawful immigration status expired before June 15, 2012); and
- You are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- You have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
How old do I have to be to apply for deferred action?
You must be at least 15 years of age or older at the time of filing your application. If you are not yet 15 years old but otherwise meet the requirements for DACA, you can file your application once you turn 15.
However, you can apply for DACA even if you are not yet 15 years old, if you are in removal proceedings, have a final removal order, or have a voluntary departure order, and are not currently being detained by immigration.
How long will deferred action last? Can DHS terminate deferred action status?
If granted, deferred action and employment authorization will last for two years. You may be able to renew it every two years. However, deferred action can be terminated at any time if DHS decides to do so.
If I am eligible for deferred action, can I also apply for my parents and siblings?
No. You cannot apply for family members.
How can I apply for deferred action with USCIS?
To apply for DACA, you will need to complete Forms I-821D, I-765 and I-765WS and submit them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The employment authorization code for DACA applications (question 16 on Form I-765) is (c)(33).
You will need to pay a filing fee of $465.
You will also need to submit evidence proving that you:
- Were under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012;
- Came to the U.S. before the age of 16;
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. since at least June 15, 2007;
- Were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012;
- Entered the country without inspection, or your lawful immigration status expired before June 15, 2012; and
- Are currently in school, graduated from high school, have a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the military.
For examples of documents that can be used to prove each of the above points, click here. Although not required, you can also include any documents showing additional positive or special factors in your case (for example: involvement with volunteer work or community service; participation in extracurricular activities; academic or other achievements; physical or mental health concerns; etc).
To see where you should file your application, find your state of residence on this chart. If you live in New Jersey, you should send your application to:
U.S. Postal Service
USPS Express Mail/Courier
USCIS Chicago Lockbox Facility
P.O. Box 5757
Chicago, IL 60680-5757
USCIS Chicago Lockbox Facility
131 S. Dearborn – 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
When you submit your application, you should include a cover letter that states your name, your address, and a list of the forms and documents that you are attaching, in the order they are placed in your application packet.
Is there a fee waiver available?
Fee waivers will not be accepted. In a very limited number of cases, DHS will consider fee exemption requests from an individual before she files the DACA application. Fee exemptions may be granted if you:
- Are under 18 years of age, homeless, and in foster care or under 18 years of age and otherwise lacking any parental or other family support, and your income is less than 150% of the U.S. poverty level; or
- Cannot care for yourself because you suffer from a serious, chronic disability and your income is less than 150% of the U.S. poverty level; or
- Have, at the time of the request, accumulated $25,000 or more in debt in the past 12 months as a result of unreimbursed medical expenses for yourself or an immediate family member, and your income is less than 150% of the U.S. poverty level.
What does “currently in school” mean?
If you do not have your high school diploma or GED, and have not been honorably discharged from the military, you must show that you are “currently in school.” That means you must be enrolled in:
- A public or private elementary school, junior high or middle school, high school, or secondary school; or
- An education, literacy, or career training program (including vocational training) that is designed to help you get a placement in post-secondary education, job training, or employment, and where you are working toward such placement; or
- An education program assisting you either in obtaining a regular high school diploma or its recognized equivalent under state law (including a certificate of completion, certificate of attendance, or alternate award), or in passing a GED exam or other equivalent state-authorized exam.
Education, literacy, or career training programs can include, but are not limited to, programs funded in whole or in part by federal or state grants. Programs funded by other sources may also be acceptable for DACA purposes, if they have a record of demonstrated effectiveness, such as institutions of higher education, including community colleges, and certain community-based organizations.
What if I have taken trips outside of the United States? Will that affect my continuous residence?
An absence from the United States will not interrupt your continuous residence if it was “brief, casual, and innocent” and took place before August 15, 2012. Time spent outside the United States will be considered brief, casual, and innocent if:
- The absence was short and reasonably calculated to accomplish the purpose for the absence; and
- The absence was not because of an order of exclusion, deportation, or removal; and
- The absence was not because of an order of voluntary departure or an administrative grant of voluntary departure before you were placed in exclusion, deportation, or removal proceedings; and
- The purpose of the absence and/or your actions while outside the United States were not contrary to law.
What if I have been arrested in the past?
You will have to undergo a background check after you apply for DACA. If you have ever been arrested, you should consult with an immigration attorney before filing an application with USCIS. If you have been convicted of a criminal offense that is a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three misdemeanors, you will not be eligible for deferred action.
What offenses count as a felony?
A felony is a federal, state, or local criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
What offenses count as a significant misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is defined by federal law as an offense for which the maximum term of imprisonment authorized is one year or less but greater than five days. Any misdemeanor offense involving domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking, or driving under the influence will be considered a significant misdemeanor, regardless of the actual sentence imposed. Any other misdemeanor offense which resulted in a jail sentence of more than 90 days will also be considered a significant misdemeanor.
What offenses count as a non-significant misdemeanor?
Any misdemeanor offense that did not involve domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking, or driving under the influence and resulted in a jail sentence of 90 days or less (including no jail time) will be considered a non-significant misdemeanor.
What about expunged or juvenile convictions or immigration-related convictions?
Immigration-related offenses characterized as felonies or misdemeanors by state immigration laws will not count as disqualifying felonies or misdemeanors for DACA purposes.
Expunged convictions and juvenile convictions will not automatically disqualify you from deferred action.
Keep in mind that the decision to grant deferred action is handled on a case-by-case basis. USCIS has the discretion to make a decision based on all of your individual circumstances, including whether or not you have a criminal history as described above. Therefore, your criminal record, or lack of one, may not necessarily determine the outcome of your application.
What if I am currently in removal proceedings or detained?
If you are currently in removal proceedings, or have a final order of removal or a grant of voluntary departure, you can still apply for deferred action with USCIS. If you are currently being detained by immigration, though, you may not request deferred action from USCIS. Instead, you should notify your detention officer or contact the ICE Office of the Public Advocate by telephone phone at 1-888-351-4024 (staffed 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Friday) or by email at EROPublicAdvocate@ice.dhs.gov.
What if my application for DACA is denied?
If your application is denied, you cannot appeal the decision.
If I am not granted deferred action, will I be placed in removal proceedings?
If your application is denied, and if your case does not involve a criminal offense, fraud, or a threat to national security or public safety, your case will not be referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for purposes of removal proceedings except where DHS determines there are exceptional circumstances. For more information on USCIS’s policy on when they may issue a notice of removal proceedings or refer a case to ICE, see this memo.
To read more about the deferred action application process, visit USCIS’s page on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
This information last reviewed 8/15/12.