“Dreamers”, also known as individuals who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, are undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. In June of 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of 2 years, subject to renewal. In August of 2022 the Department of Homeland Security published the DACA Final Rule with the intent to preserve the initially temporary policy. DACA allows these individuals to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation, but it does not provide a path to legal permanent residency or citizenship.
To be eligible for DACA, an individual must meet all of the following criteria:
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 (born on or after June 16, 1981);
- Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the time of filing your request for DACA;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of filing your request for DACA with USCIS;
- Had no lawful immigration status on June 15, 2012, and at the time of filing your request for DACA, meaning that:
- You never had a lawful immigration status on or before June 15, 2012, or
- Any lawful immigration status or parole that you obtained had expired as of June 15, 2012, and
- Any lawful status that you had after June 15, 2012, expired or otherwise terminated before you submitted your request for DACA;
- Are currently enrolled 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 United States Coast Guard or armed forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor (that is, a misdemeanor as described in 8 CFR 236.22(b)(6)), or 3 or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
If an individual is eligible for DACA, they can apply for the program by filing a request with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The request must include supporting documents, such as evidence of the individual’s age, education, and residence in the United States.
If the request is approved, the individual will receive a grant of deferred action, which allows them to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation for a renewable two-year period. However, DACA does not provide a path to legal permanent residency or citizenship, so Dreamers may still be at risk of deportation if the program is ever terminated or not renewed.
Dreamers who want to obtain legal permanent residency or citizenship may be able to do so through other means, such as marriage to a U.S. citizen or employment-based immigration. It is important for Dreamers to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to understand their options and the potential risks and consequences. Call us today for a case evaluation!