St. Louis Missouri Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Discusses the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program

Last week, on August 15, 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program began.  Pursuant to this program and President Barack Obama’s executive order, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun accepting requests for deferred action from “childhood arrivals,” more commonly known as Dreamers.

Basic Requirements for Deferred Action:

An undocumented, uninspected immigrant is eligible for this program if: (1) he or she was in the U.S. and under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, when the program was announced; (2) he or she came to the U.S.  before they were 16 years old; (3) he or she has lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years; and (4) he or she is in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a GED, or was honorably discharged from the military.

Only individuals who meet the above requirements are eligible for deferred action under the program.  If you do not meet each requirement, you should not apply for deferred action.  Furthermore, even if you meet the above requirements, you will not be granted deferred action if USCIS determines that you pose a threat to national security or if you have been convicted of a felony, a serious misdemeanor (including a sexual abuse or drug violation), or three less serious misdemeanors.  Serious ramifications follow the application under DACA and you should not apply for the benefit without discussing your particular case with an experienced, competent immigration attorney.

Procedure to Request Deferred Action:

If an individual meets the above requirements, they can file a Form I-821D with USCIS.  If you are not in removal proceedings, you must be 15 years old to file this form and request deferred action.  If you are in removal proceedings, have been ordered removed, or have been granted voluntary departure, you can file this form and request deferred action even if you are under the age of 15.

With a completed Form I-821D, you must also include the $465 filing fee and direct, documentary evidence to establish that you meet the requirements.  Individuals who can demonstrate through verifiable documentation that they meet the requirements will be considered for deferred action; however, determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis.  To avoid delays and denials, an individual requesting deferred action should take the time to correctly complete the Form I-821D and gather the necessary documentation, such as documents tracing the time in the U.S., school transcripts, awards for academic achievements and sports victories, high school and college diplomas, letters of recommendation, pay stubs, bank statements, rent checks, and tax returns.

If an individual who otherwise meets the above requirements travels outside of the U.S. after August 15, 2012, they will no longer be considered for deferred action.  Additionally, any travel outside of the U.S. prior to August 15, 2012 might affect a request for deferral, depending on the length and purpose of the travel.  If you are unsure whether you meet the requirements and whether you have or can obtain the necessary documentary evidence to support your request, you should consult an attorney.

Benefits of Deferred Action:

If USCIS grants deferred action, this deferral will last for two years.  Deferred action means that the U.S. government will not remove or deport you for the duration of the deferral.  Furthermore, individuals granted deferred action will also receive a work permit allowing them to work in the U.S. , obtain valid Social Security numbers, and apply for driver’s licenses, professional certificates, and financial aid for college.  Still, while the program suspends deportation, it does not confer any legal status or open any future path to citizenship.  In two years when the deferral and work permit expires, there is no guarantee that a further deferral and work permit will be granted.  A change in administrations may also alter the existence of this program.