Dream Act: The Complete Guide

Posted by Frank Gogol
Updated on April 26, 2022

Due to different circumstances, some people were brought to the United States as children, and they grew up in the country. But after a while, a lot of immigrants are at risk of deportation, which puts them through a lot of hardship. This is where the Dream Act comes in to protect these individuals.

But what exactly is the Dream Act, who benefits from it, and what does it do for immigrants? You will learn more about it in this article.

What Is the Dream Act?

The DREAM Act, or the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act is a legislative proposal in the United States that gives unauthorized immigrants temporary conditional residency. This would also give them the right to work in the States. The authorization was granted to people who came to the United States when they were minors. If they meet other qualifications later, they even have the chance to obtain permanent residency.

The Act was introduced in 2001 for the first time. Mainly because of the publicity the bill received, the immigrants who were undocumented were called “Dreamers”. Congress introduced at least 11 Dream Act versions in the last 20 years. All of them represented a way for immigrants to obtain legal status, despite the few differences every version came with. If they came to the U.S. as children, then they would be able to obtain legal status. Certain versions of it managed to garner 48 co-sponsors in the Senate of the U.S., as well as 152 in the House of Representatives.

Although the support for every bill iteration has been massive, especially from the immigrants who need this bill, they haven’t become law. The one who came closest to getting full passage was the bill from 2010, as it managed to pass the House. Unfortunately, it needed 5 more votes to reach the 60 votes it required. As it didn’t get these last votes, it couldn’t proceed in the Senate.

Current Versions of the Dream Act

The Dream Act currently has two versions before Congress, respectively S. 264 and H.R. 6. Both of the bills would act as a citizenship path for immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children.


S. 264 is the Dream Act of 2021, and it was first introduced on February 4, 2021. The ones who introduced this bill were Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin. Also, they tried introducing identical legislation in the two previous Congress sessions.

H.R. 6

H.R. 6 is a bill known as the Dream and Promise Act of 2021, and it was actually a Dream Act version that was added to a much larger bill on March 3, 2021. The one who added this bill is Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, who introduced it in the House. H.R 6 Dreamers would even make it possible for two humanitarian program beneficiaries to obtain citizenship, respectively people from the Deferred Enforced Departure and Temporary Protected Status programs.


Differences Between S.264 and H.R. 6

While they were introduced around the same time, the two bills have some key differences. For example, the age of arrival for S. 264 eligibility is 17 years old or younger, whereas for H.R. 6 is 18 years old or younger. The period of conditional permanent residence for S. 264 is 8 years and for H.R. 6 it’s 10 years.

S. 264 has been physically present continuously for four years prior to the enactment of the bill, and H.R. 6 has been present since January 1, 2021. Both bills also have different disqualifying criminal histories. For instance, S. 264’s convictions include three or more than three offenses that resulted in being imprisoned for a 90-day aggregate or more than that. It also mentions all crimes that have a maximum imprisonment term of over 1 year, as well as aggravated crimes or felonies such as drug-related offenses or moral turpitude.

As for H.R. 6, it involved domestic violence, any felony offense, and aggravated felony or crime that involves drug-related offenses and moral turpitude. Three or more misdemeanors are also involved.

Lastly, the two bills have different exceptions. S. 264 has crime related to not having an immigration status as the exception. Conversely, H.R. has the same exception, but also four additional ones, including nonviolent civil disobedience, specific crimes related to marijuana, minor traffic offenses, and domestic violence that is related to the applicant being the victim of specific violence types.

What Would the Dream Act Do?

The Dream Act would be beneficial for many immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children. Different undocumented high-school graduates and GED recipients would get the opportunity to obtain U.S. citizenship through either work, college, or different armed services. What’s more, there is a 3-step process that takes place with the bill.

  • Step 1: Step 1 involves conditional permanent residence, something that a person would be able to obtain in certain circumstances. The person must have DACA or must have come to the U.S. while being a child. They shouldn’t have been convicted of specific crimes or taken part in someone else’s persecution. Also, they must have been admitted to a higher education institution, obtained a GED, graduated high school, or must be presently going to a program or a secondary school helping students get a GED or high school diploma.
  • Step 2: Under this step, someone with a CPR status would have the opportunity to get lawful permanent residence. They must first either get a degree from a higher education institution, complete two military service years or demonstrate employment over 3 years. Whoever is unable to meet these requirements has the chance to apply for a “hardship waiver” if they have a disability or are full-time caregivers. It also applies if deporting the person would put them at risk.
  • Step 3: Once the person has LPR and keeps it for five years, they can apply for citizenship. They will go through naturalization and become citizens of the U.S.

Who Would Benefit from the Dream Act?

Under S. 264, it is estimated that about 2 million Dreamers would be able to become eligible for conditional permanent resident status. If they go to school, an additional 1 million Dreamers would qualify for conditional permanent resident status. Also, 1.7 million will be able to get qualifications for removing the status conditions.

Meanwhile, under H.R. 6, about 3 million Dreamers would qualify. 2.5 million out of them might even get qualifications to help them remove the conditions. An extra 1.1 million would also be able to get conditional permanent resident status if they go to school. Besides, an additional 400,000 people might get legal permanent residence due to being eligible for DED or TPS.

What Happens Next?

It’s uncertain what will happen next regarding Dreamers and whether they will get citizenship or not. President Biden has promised to sign the DREAM Act and make it possible for Dreamers to start their journey to citizenship, but Congress needs to approve it first. The 2021 DREAM Act has passed into the House of Representatives, but the Senate hasn’t voted yet. Support is needed from all parties to become law, so it’s hard to predict what will happen.

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The Bottom Line

The Dream Act can offer citizenship to a lot of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, but so far, things are uncertain surrounding the bill. We can only wait and see what Congress will decide.

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