DACA Explained (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)

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One of the major announcements in President Obama’s recent executive action focuses on expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program so that more people can qualify for the program.

The deferred action program allows certain qualifying individuals who are in the United States illegally to stay in the United States without fear of being deported and obtain a work authorization permit.

The Current DACA Program

The current DACA program allows for a two year deferred action period along with work authorization. It does not provide a pathway to a green card, but it does provide a means of protection and ability to work lawfully in the United States.

Under the existing policy, in order to apply for DACA, you have to meet certain criteria, chiefly among them, that you entered the United States before reaching your 16th birthday.

In other words, that you arrived as a “child”, or something close to it. If you fall within this age cap, you still need to meet other specific criteria to apply for deferred action. Specifically, you may CURRENTLY qualify for DACA if you meet the below list. It is important to note that some of these requirements are expected to change, which we will explain below.

  1. Came to the US before your 16th birthday;
  2. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  3. Have continually resided in the US since June 15, 2007 until the present date;
  4. Were physically present in the US on June 15, 2012 and at the time of applying for DACA;
  5. Did not hold lawful status on June 15, 2012;
  6. Are either currently in school, have graduated from high school or obtained a certificate of completion, have obtained a GED certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran from the Coast Guard or US Armed Forces; and
  7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

The Expansion of the DACA Program

While DACA has helped many seeking protection since 2012, the recent executive action would serve to widen the scope of the policy and grant access to hundreds of thousands of other illegal immigrants seeking deferred action. The new proposed DACA policy would change in many ways, namely, to completely eliminate the age limit for applicants, shorten the acceptable cutoff date for continuous residence, and extend the approval period from two years to three years.

Specifically, the new DACA policy seeks to allow applicants to qualify if they meet all of the above guidelines, subject to the following changes:

  1. The age ceiling will be eliminated entirely, meaning you can apply even if you were born before June 16, 1981;
  2. The continuous residence period will change to January 1, 2010 from June 15, 2007; and
  3. The deferred action period, along with work authorization period, is now valid for three years rather than the prior two year approval period.

These changes in the policy stand to have a major effect on the practical impact of DACA for those seeking protection. Removing the upper age limit will broaden the policy to create eligibility for hundreds of thousands of illegal residents. DACA protections would now apply to any age group, even those who entered after their 16th birthday, as long as they also meet the above listed criteria. While these changes to the policy have not yet been implemented, USCIS reports that changes could take effect as early as 90 days from the announcement of the executive action on November 20, 2014.


The USCIS has announced that as of February 18th, they will begin accepting requests for the expanded DACA under the revised guidelines established as per Obama’s recent announcements on immigration.

For more information on the DACA, contact Lightman Law Firm at (212) 643-0985 or submit a consultation request online. Also visit our DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) page for more information.

Lightman Law Firm was recently honored as New York’s 2014 Immigration Law Firm of the Year by Acquisition International. Additionally, founding attorney, Douglas Lightman, was named a “Rising Star” by SuperLawyers.com. Lightman Law Firm also carries a 4.9 rating on Google Reviews.