For many people who were brought to this country as children, the United States is the only home they know but they are not citizens. Immigrants in this situation who meet certain eligibility requirements can apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This program began in 2012 and was expanded in 2014 when President Obama took executive actions on immigration.
Deferred action is not amnesty or immunity; it is a type of prosecutorial discretion that the government may choose to revoke at any time. It does not provide lawful immigration status or a path to a green card or citizenship. It does not extend to any family members of the person granted deferred action.
Despite these limitations, DACA is often an appealing option because individuals who receive deferred action are not considered unlawfully present for admissibility purposes. In addition, immigrants granted deferred action may be able to get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and are sometimes eligible for other government benefits such as drivers licenses or reduced tuition.
Individuals seeking DACA can be any age but must have entered the United States before the age of 16 and lived here continuously since January 1, 2010. Applicants for DACA must be physically present in the United States and have no lawful status. Anyone convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors, or who poses a threat to national security or public safety is not eligible for DACA. Applicants must currently be in school, have graduated (or obtained a GED) or be an honorably discharged veteran.
It is possible to collect the needed documents and fill out an application for DACA without the assistance of an attorney; however, you only get one chance to apply. If the government decides not to grant DACA in your case, you cannot appeal the decision or file a motion to reopen or reconsider. Furthermore, an incomplete application can delay the government’s decision, cost you unnecessary fees or even lead to removal proceedings (deportation). Therefore, it is in your best interests to hire an experienced attorney to assist you with your DACA application.