Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows certain people who came to the U.S. as children to request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, renewable in two year increments.  Those who receive deferred action will not be put into removal proceedings and are eligible for work authorization.  You can apply for work authorization at the same time you apply for DACA.  Although you are considered to be lawfully present in the U.S. during the time of deferred action (so you are not accruing unlawful presence), DACA does not give you a lawful status.

Guidelines for DACA Eligibility

You are eligible for consideration for DACA if you:

  1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
  3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Were 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;
  5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
  6. 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
  7. 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.

You must also be at least 15 years or older to request deferred action, unless you are currently in removal proceedings or have a final removal or voluntary departure order.

Explanation of Guidelines

Continuous Residence

June 15, 2007 – August 15, 2012: If you travelled outside the U.S. on or after June 15, 2007 but before August 15, 2012, your continuous residence is not interrupted if the travel was brief, casual, and innocent.  If your travel was for an extended period or because of an order of exclusion, deportation or removal, then you would not qualify for DACA.

August 16, 2012 – present: If you travel outside the U.S. after August 15, 2012, and before your request for deferred action is adjudicated, then you likely do not meet the continuous residence requirement.


To be considered “currently in school” under the guidelines, you must be enrolled in school on the date you apply for DACA.  You must be enrolled in:

  • a public or private elementary school, junior high or middle school, high school, or secondary school;
  • an education, literacy, or career training program (including vocational training) that is designed to lead to placement in postsecondary education, job training, or employment and where you are working toward such placement; or
  • an education program assisting students 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 General Educational Development (GED) exam or other equivalent state-authorized exam.

Felonies and Misdemeanors

A felony is a federal, state or local criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.

A significant misdemeanor is a misdemeanor as defined by federal law (specifically, one for which the maximum term of imprisonment authorized is one year or less but greater than five days) and:

  1. Regardless of the sentence imposed, is an offense of domestic violence; sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; drug distribution or trafficking; or, driving under the influence; or,
  2. If not an offense listed above, is one for which the individual was sentenced to time in custody of more than 90 days. The sentence must involve time to be served in custody, and therefore does not include a suspended sentence.

A non-significant misdemeanor (maximum term of imprisonment is one year or less but greater than five days):

  1. Is not an offense of domestic violence; sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; drug distribution or trafficking; or, driving under the influence; and
  2. Is one for which the individual was sentenced to time in custody of 90 days or less.

A minor traffic offense will not be considered a misdemeanor for purposes of this process, but it is important to emphasize that driving under the influence is a significant misdemeanor regardless of the sentence imposed.

If you have a criminal record, it is important to analyze whether the conviction(s) may not only make you ineligible for DACA, but also lead to deportation or removal should you apply for DACA.

Travel Outside the U.S.

Once approved for DACA, you may also apply for advance parole to travel outside the U.S.  Travel will only be permitted for:

  • Educational purposes, such as semester abroad programs or academic research;
  • Employment purposes, such as overseas assignments, interviews, conferences, training, or meetings with clients; or
  • Humanitarian purposes, such as travel to obtain medical treatment, attend funeral services for a family member, or visit an ailing relative.

You should not travel outside the U.S. if there are factors which make you inadmissible as you will not be allowed to reenter the U.S.  If you have been ordered removed or deported, once you have received advance parole, and before you actually leave the U.S., you should seek to reopen your case before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and obtain administrative closure or termination of your removal proceeding.

It’s also important to note that you can not travel outside the U.S. until you are approved for advance parole.  If approved, you should carefully note the parole date and ensure you return prior to that date.

Renewing DACA

You may request consideration for a two-year extension of DACA. As long as you were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, you may request a renewal even after turning 31. Your request for an extension will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Source: USCIS.gov