Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows some aliens who came to the United States as children to avoid deportation and receive temporary immigration status.

DACA does not guarantee lawful permanent residence ("green card") or naturalization as a U.S. citizenIn addition, DACA may be revoked at any time.

Dreamers should note that President Trump made a campaign promise to end DACA but has not yet acted on it.

Aliens can check the current status on the "Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)" page on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

To help you better understand the benefits of deferred action and the process for obtaining DACA relief, our Los Angeles, California immigration lawyers discuss the following, below:

For other ways to stay in the U.S. legally, please see our articles on temporary protected status (TPS), asylum in the U.S., humanitarian parole, and cancellation of removal.

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1. Who is eligible under "DACA"?

To qualify for DACA relief, aliens must meet certain conditions set forth by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Eligible aliens can apply for relief regardless of whether they are or have ever been in deportation or removal proceedings or they are subject to a final order of removal.

The conditions for DACA eligibility are: 

  • The alien was under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012;
  • The alien came to the U.S. before his/her 16th birthday;
  • The alien has continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, up to the present;
  • The alien was present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the request to be considered for deferred action with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
  • The alien entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or his/her lawful immigration status expired as of that date;
  • The alien is currently in school, has graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, has obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the U.S.; and
  • The alien does not pose a threat to national security or public safety and has not been convicted of:
    • A felony,
    • A significant misdemeanor, or
    • Three or more other misdemeanors. 

1.1. What counts as a “significant misdemeanor”?

For purposes of DACA, certain criminal offenses always count as a “significant misdemeanor” regardless of the sentence imposed. They are:

  • Burglary,
  • Domestic violence,
  • Sexual abuse or exploitation,
  • Unlawful possession of firearms,
  • Driving under the influence, and
  • Drug distribution/trafficking.

Other misdemeanors are considered “significant” under DACA only if the applicant is sentenced to more than 90 days in custody. The applicant must actually have been sentenced to custody. A suspended sentence does not count.[1]

1.2. How does travel abroad affect DACA eligibility?

Certain travel abroad may negatively impact DACA's “continuous presence” requirement.

Traveling outside the U.S. before August 15, 2012 has no impact if the travel was brief, casual, and innocent.

If, however, an otherwise eligible alien traveled outside the U.S. after August 15, 2012 and before the request for deferred action was adjudicated, the alien will lose DACA eligibility.

2. How to apply for DACA

DACA applicants must submit three forms to USCIS along with supporting documentation and the filing fee of $495:

  1. Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals;
  2. Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (regardless of whether you intend to work in the U.S.); and
  3. Form I-765 worksheet.

3. How much does DACA cost?

The cost to file for DACA, including employment authorization and biometric services, is $495. This fee cannot be waived.

4. How long does it take to get deferred action?

It take approximately 90 days to receive a positive response once a Form I-892d has been properly filed.

USCIS will initially confirm receipt of the application by sending a Form I-797C, Notice of Action. A DACA applicant should receive this notice approximately 2-3 weeks after filing.

If the Form I-821D is incomplete or the alien does not qualify, USCIS may send a rejection of the petition a request for additional information or evidence.

5. Can I work once my application is approved?

Yes. Once USCIS has granted deferred action and issued an employment authorization document (EAD), the applicant may legally work in the U.S.

Need help entering or staying in the U.S.? Call us…

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If you or someone you know needs assistance entering or staying in the U.S., we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Our caring California immigration attorneys have helped numerous aliens achieve their dream of U.S. citizenship, lawful permanent residence (green card) or immigrant or non-immigrant status.

We may even be able to help if you have been convicted of a “deportable” crime or an “inadmissible” criminal offense.

To schedule your free consultation, call us at (855) 396-0370 or complete the form on this page.

Don't lose hope -- there are many ways to remain in the U.S. lawfully. DACA is just one.

Legal references:

  1. See USCIS "Frequently Asked Questions" about deferred action for childhood arrivals.

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