(This begins our three-part series on the development of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, its proposed expansion, DAPA, and the recent developments in the US Supreme Court)
On June 15, 2012, President Barack Obama unveiled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) to protect certain classes of undocumented immigrants. Under this program, the US Department of Homeland Security would not remove undocumented youth who had come to the United States as children if they had met certain criteria. Instead, these youth would be “DACAmented” and given a number of benefits that were previously unavailable to them, including the temporary permission to stay in the US under “deferred action.”
To be eligible for the initial DACA guidelines, an applicant must:
- Have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 (been born on or after June 16, 1981);
- Have entered the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States from June 15, 2007 up to the present time;
- Have been physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
- Be 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
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
In general, an applicant must be at least 15 years old to file for DACA. However, if the applicant is currently in removal proceedings (are before an immigration judge), have a final order of removal or were previously granted voluntary departure, a DACA application may be filed prior to an applicant’s 15th birthday.
Once the DACA application is filed, DHS will conduct a variety of background checks and determine if the applicant qualifies under the standards. If the applicant qualifies, USCIS will issue a letter confirming the DACA grant and an employment authorization document (EAD) or work card remains valid for two years. In addition, the newly DACAmented immigrant will be eligible for a variety of benefits, including:
- The ability to work
- The ability to obtain a driver’s license, depending on the state
- The ability to get a Social Security number
- The ability to travel outside of the United States if the immigrant has received advance parole from USCIS. However, there are many factors in each case that may prevent an applicant from being able to return to the US even with a grant of advance parole. Each case is different and applicants should consult an experienced immigrant attorney prior to leaving the US, even with a grant of advance parole.
- The ability to apply for a credit card
USCIS is currently still accepting DACA applications from those who are eligible under the first DACA guidelines for the first time, as well as renewal applications for those who were previously granted DACA and now want to renew it. However, there are many pitfalls that may befall those who apply, especially those who have any sort of criminal history.
In addition, prior to applying for advance parole or making use of advance parole to travel outside of the United States, it is strongly urged that you consult an experienced immigration attorney to review the facts of your case. Failure to do so will not impede your departure from the US but some applicants may find themselves unable to return to the United States afterwards.
If you have any questions or would like to seek a consultation for your case, please call (908) 709-0500.