Complete Guide to the DACA Requirements

Updated on January 7, 2024

At a Glance

  • DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, initiated in 2012, protects undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation.
  • Eligibility criteria include arrival in the U.S. before age 16, continuous residence since June 15, 2007, and meeting various age, education, criminal history, and physical presence requirements.
  • DACA recipients receive temporary protection from deportation, work permits, driver’s licenses, and social security numbers.
  • DACA status requires renewal every two years, contingent on meeting ongoing program requirements.

Many immigrant families are living in the U.S. illegally. These families have no legal status. Family members cannot legally get work permits, driver’s licenses, or social security numbers. Getting into schools or receiving public aid can be tricky. And there is always the risk of being deported.

Being an undocumented immigrant is even more tricky when you had no choice in the matter. Immigrant children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents became undocumented through no choice of their own. 

If this describes you, you might meet the DACA requirements.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA Program is a humanitarian program that protects people from deportation. It allows you to apply for deferred action if you illegally entered the U.S. as a minor. You can also get a temporary work permit, driver’s license, and social security number through DACA.

Since 2017, the Trump administration has made multiple attempts to wind down the DACA program. But in December 2020, a federal judge ordered the Department of Homeland Security to restore DACA to its original state as implemented by the Obama administration. 

This means if you meet the DACA eligibility requirements you can submit an initial or renewal application for DACA.

What is the DACA Program?

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA Program is an initiative implemented by the Obama administration in 2012. 

The purpose of the program is to protect people from deportation. More specifically it is intended to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were children.

 If you came to the U.S. as a minor and you are currently undocumented, you would be protected from deportation by the DACA Program. 

The DACA Program also allows you to get a temporary work permit, driver’s license, and social security number if you cane to the U.S. as an undocumented child.

Who Qualifies for the DACA Program?

You qualify for the DACA program if you:

  • are an undocumented immigrant who has no legal status
  • were brought to the U.S. by your parents when you were a minor, and
  • have continuously resided in the U.S. since then.

What are the Requirements to be Eligible for DACA

The DACA eligibility requirements can be a bit daunting for first-time applicants, but renewals are generally easier.

The DACA Requirements are:

  • Age as of June 15, 2012 – You need to have been under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012.
  • Age of illegal entry to the U.S. – You need to have been under the age of 16 when you came to the U.S.
  • Date of illegal entry to the U.S. – You need to have entered the U.S. without inspection before June 15, 2012.
  • Residency – You must have continuously resided in the U.S. from June 15, 2007, to the present.
  • Physically present – You must have been physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time of requesting consideration of deferred action with the USCIS.
  • Legal status – You must have had no legal status on June 15, 2012.
  • Education – You must be in school, have graduated high school, obtained a GED, or have been honourably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces.
  • Criminal history – You must not have been convicted of a felony offence or a significant misdemeanour and you must not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Can DACA Be Renewed?

Your request for deferred action has to be renewed every two years.

You will be considered for renewal if you still meet all of the DACA requirements. Specifically, the USCIS will consider:

  • Whether you have left the U.S. on or after August 15, 2012, without advance parole
  • Whether you have continuously resided in the U.S. since you submitted your most recent request for DACA that was approved up to the present time
  • Whether you have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanour, or three or more misdemeanours since you have submitted your most recent request for DACA, and
  • Whether your status as a threat to national security or public safety has changed since you have submitted your most recent request for DACA.

To complete your DACA requirements for renewal, you have to complete and sign the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Forms I-821D. Make sure you use the most recent version of Form I-821D available otherwise the USCIS will deny your request.

If you previously received DACA and your DACA expired on or after February 2019, you can still submit your DACA petition as a renewal petition. Indicate the date your previous DACA expired in the appropriate box in Part 1 of Form I-821D.

If you previously received DACA and your DACA expired before March 2019, or your most recent DACA grant was previously cancelled, you, unfortunately, cannot apply for DACA as a renewal. You can still file a new initial DACA petition, by following the instructions for Form I-821D and Form I-821, DI-765. 

If you are filing an initial DACA request because your DACA expired or because it was cancelled at any time, write the date your previous DACA ended in Part 1 of Form I-821D.

If you are applying for a temporary work permit, you must complete and sign the Application for Employment Authorization Form I-765. Make sure you use the most recent version of Form I-765 available or USCIS will deny your application. Follow the instructions on the forms carefully to file them with USCIS. Be sure to submit the correct filing fees or an approved fee waiver request.

Additional DACA Documents 

You do not need to submit any additional documents at the time of your renewal request unless you have new documents related to removal proceedings or a criminal history that you have not previously sent to the USCIS in a previously approved DACA petition.

For a step-by-step guide to requesting consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals, complete the worksheets and fill out the forms available here

Read More

Final Thoughts

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA Program is a humanitarian program that protects people from deportation. It allows you to apply for deferred action if you illegally entered the U.S. as a minor. You can also get a temporary work permit, driver’s license, and social security number through DACA.

Even though the Trump administration has made multiple attempts to wind down the DACA program Since 2017, a federal judge officially ordered the Department of Homeland Security to restore DACA to its original state as implemented by the Obama administration. 

So if you meet the DACA eligibility requirements you can submit an initial or renewal application for DACA.

DACA Requirements FAQ

What is DACA and who is eligible for it?

Answer: DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is a program that allows certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to obtain temporary protection from deportation and work authorization. To be eligible for DACA, individuals must have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, have continuously resided in the country since June 15, 2007, and meet several other criteria, such as being in school, having a high school diploma or GED, or being an honorably discharged veteran.

Can I apply for DACA if I am currently in removal proceedings?

Answer: Yes, individuals who are currently in removal proceedings may still be eligible for DACA. However, each case is unique, and it is recommended to consult with an immigration attorney to assess your specific situation and determine the best course of action.

Do I need to have a clean criminal record to be eligible for DACA?

Answer: While DACA applicants must not pose a threat to national security or public safety, having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify someone from applying. However, certain criminal offenses may make an individual ineligible or raise concerns during the application process. It is important to review the specific guidelines and consult with an attorney if you have any criminal history.

Can I apply for DACA if I have previously been denied or did not meet the initial requirements?

Answer: If you previously applied for DACA and were denied or did not meet the initial requirements, you may be eligible to apply under the revised guidelines. The DACA program has undergone changes over time, so it’s important to review the most up-to-date requirements and consult with an attorney to assess your eligibility.

Does DACA provide a path to permanent residency or citizenship?

Answer: No, DACA itself does not provide a direct path to permanent residency or citizenship. It offers temporary relief from deportation and work authorization, renewable in two-year increments. However, DACA recipients may be eligible for other immigration options, such as certain forms of relief or pathways to legal status, depending on individual circumstances and changes in immigration laws. It is crucial to consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative for personalized guidance on potential pathways to permanent residency or citizenship.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.