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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

by Hamid R. Kashani, Attorney at Law
Nov 07, 2018 (last modified Feb 25, 2019)

On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain individuals who have come to the United States as children may apply for deferred action. Deferred Action status is granted for two (2) years, but it is renewable. 

Topic image for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Note that Deferred Action status is not a legal status. It is simply an exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the USCIS to "defer" taking a removal action against the applicant for a prescribed period of time.

Would I qualify for DACA?

You may apply for DACA, if

  • You were under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012.
  • You came to the United States before your reached 16 years of age.
  • You are at least 15 years old at the time of application (but see below).
  • You have continuously resided here since June 15, 2007 until the time of your application.
  • You were in the United States on June 15, 2012 and at the time you make your application.
  • You were not in a lawful immigration status on June 15, 2012.
  • You are currently enrolled in school, have graduated from high school, have received a GED, or are honorably discharged from the United States armed forces.
  • You have not been convicted of (a) a felony, (b) a significant misdemeanor, or (c) three or more other misdemeanors, and you do not pose a threat to the security or public safety of the United States.

Can I apply even if a removal proceeding or an order of removal is pending against me?

If you are in removal proceedings, have a final removal order against you, or have been granted a voluntary departure order, and you are not in detention, then you may apply even if you are younger than 15 years old.

What is the application process for receiving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?

To apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, you must file an application for Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (I-821D), together with Application for Employment Authorization (I-765), and Form I-765 Worksheet (Form I-765WS), assuming you also wish to receive employment authorization.

To see the current USCIS fee for this application, see USCIS Fee Schedule.

To see how long the USCIS would take to adjudicate your application, see USCIS Processing Times.

What evidence should I present to support my DACA application?

Extensive evidentiary materials are needed to support the DACA application and to prove each element of the claim. The scope and extent of the required documentation would vary by your circumstances.

Can I work in the United States while in DACA status?

If you submit an application for employment authorization together with your DACA application, the USCIS may grant you employment authorization. Upon receiving your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), you may work in the United States.

Can I travel outside of the United States while in DACA status?

This is a risky proposition. You cannot leave the country and come back just because you have received the DACA status. In addition, you cannot leave the country for pleasure or vacation.

You can only leave the country if you have a compelling need to make such a trip.  Even then, you must obtain an advance parole to come back. You may request advance parole for

  • Urgent humanitarian reasons (e.g., visiting a sick relative or attending a funeral)
  • Education purpose (e.g., study or research)
  • Employment (e.g., overseas assignments)

A word of caution: Under some circumstances, an individual returning from a trip to U.S. territories or possessions (such as Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) is considered to have left the United States and to be making a new entry into the country.  See the USCIS and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol statements regarding traveling outside of 50 states of the United States. Also see the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol's statement on DACA-approved travel to U.S. territories without advance parole.


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