Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): An Unusual Opportunity for Certain Immigrants Who Came to the U.S. as Children

Beginning August 15, 2012, relief is available to out-of-status or undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, and who meet certain criteria. The new rules mean the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will not initiate removal proceedings against eligible applicants, and will further grant such applicants work authorization.  There are nearly 28,000 potentially eligible beneficiaries in Washington State and 1.4 million individuals nationally potentially eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  Eligible applicants may receive deferred action for up to two years, subject to renewal, and apply for work authorization. To be considered for DACA relief, an individual must not present a risk to national security or public safety.  Deferred action is discretionary and does not provide immigration status.

Demonstrating Eligibility

In order to be eligible for DACA, an individual must:

  1. be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. have come to the United States before reaching his or her 16th birthday;
  3. have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. be physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. have entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
  6. be currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  7. not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

The application fee is $465.  Applicants will have a biometric appointment to capture their fingerprints and will be subject to a background check.  Financial, medical, school, military, employment and other records are required to establish the eligibility requirements.

Attaining Favorable Results 

Although the DACA requirements may appear to be straightforward, proceeding in filing for deferred action without an immigration attorney may not uniformly produce favorable results.  In addition to providing potential benefits, DACA also poses significant risks for some. Below are some “red flags” that may help determine when someone needs to hire an immigration attorney.

  1. Prior contact with law enforcement including arrests and convictions;
  2. Previously filed applications for immigration benefits including those prepared by a “notario”, an unlicensed immigration consultant or family member;
  3. Travel outside the US since arrival;
  4. Used a false identity or alias; or
  5. Has concerns that all prior applications or petitions may not have contained completely accurate information.

If any of the “red flags” above apply, the individual should seek help from an immigration attorney.  An immigration lawyer can help identify risks before the relief is denied.

In other situations, immigration attorneys can help resolve uncertainty and assist applicants in meeting the documentation requirements.  For example, if an individual is not sure how to establish presence in the US for five years as of June 15, 2012, an immigration lawyer can help through advice and review of available documentation.  The lawyer may even help the applicant avoid harm by advising against the submission of information that could be damaging.

Finding Representation

With the availability of this benefit, there may be more unqualified non-attorneys seeking to provide assistance to applicants.  Applicants should watch out for scams and not trust their status to a “notario” or “immigration consultant” without a license to practice law.  As in any immigration matter, information and representation should only be sought from a licensed attorney or legitimate non-profit organization.  You can find knowledgeable and licensed attorneys by visiting or