What is DACA? Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Explained

Updated on April 10, 2024

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (not to be confused with the now-defunct DAPA program) is a United States immigration policy that was implemented in 2012 under the Obama administration. The policy allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors and meet specific requirements to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

Who Is Eligible For DACA?

Applicants must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and have come to the United States before their 16th birthday. They must have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, and were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the DACA request.

Additionally, applicants must have had no lawful status on June 15, 2012. They should currently be in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.

Lastly, applicants must not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Learn more about eligibility by reading our guide to DACA Eligibility here

How to Apply for DACA

Applying for DACA can seem like a daunting process, but with the right information and preparation, you can successfully navigate the application steps. To apply for DACA, you’ll need to gather the required documents, complete the necessary forms, pay the application fee, and submit your application to USCIS.

Some of the key documents you’ll need include proof of identity, proof of arrival in the United States before age 16, proof of continuous residence since June 15, 2007, and proof of education or military service. You’ll also need to fill out Forms I-821D, I-765, and I-765WS.

After submitting your application, you’ll attend a biometrics appointment and wait for a decision from USCIS. The processing time varies, but you can expect to receive a decision within several months.

For a more comprehensive guide on the DACA application process, including detailed information on eligibility requirements, necessary documents, and the application process, check out our guide on How to Apply for DACA.

Benefits And Limitations Of DACA

DACA recipients, often referred to as “Dreamers,” are granted a temporary reprieve from deportation and are eligible to receive a work permit. Additionally, DACA recipients may be eligible for certain healthcare benefits, depending on the state they reside in. Some states have expanded Medicaid coverage or offer state-funded health insurance programs that include DACA recipients. In some states, DACA recipients may even own a firearm.

Additionally, DACA recipients can access loans for personal use, school tuition, and, under certain circumstances, buying a home.

However, DACA does not provide a path to citizenship or permanent legal status in the United States. The policy is subject to renewal every two years, and its future remains uncertain due to ongoing political debates and legal challenges. Furthermore, DACA recipients are not eligible to vote in U.S. elections, as voting rights are reserved for U.S. citizens.

It is important to note that while DACA provides certain benefits and protections, it is not a comprehensive solution for Dreamers and their families. Many advocates continue to push for legislative action that would provide a more permanent and stable status for DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Can DACA Be Renewed?

Yes, DACA can be renewed. If you are a current DACA recipient, you are eligible to renew your status every two years. However, it is important to note that the renewal process is not automatic, and you must actively submit a renewal application to maintain your DACA status and work authorization.

For a more in-depth look at the DACA renewal process, eligibility requirements, and tips for a successful application, read our comprehensive guide on DACA renewal.

Can DACA Recipients Travel Outside the U.S.?

Advance Parole is a special travel document that allows certain individuals, including DACA recipients, to travel outside the United States and return lawfully. DACA recipients who wish to travel abroad for educational, employment, or humanitarian purposes may apply for Advance Parole by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. If approved, Advance Parole allows DACA recipients to temporarily leave the United States and re-enter without jeopardizing their DACA status. However, it is important to note that Advance Parole does not guarantee re-entry, and DACA recipients should carefully consider the potential risks before traveling abroad. Additionally, the process of applying for Advance Parole can be complex, so it is recommended that DACA recipients consult with an experienced immigration attorney before making travel plans.

Note that Advance Parole is different than Parole in Place (PIP).

Can DACA Recipients Get Green Cards?

While DACA itself does not provide a direct path to permanent residency (green card) or citizenship, some DACA recipients may be eligible to apply for a green card through other means, such as family-based sponsorship, employment-based sponsorship, or special immigrant categories. However, the process can be complex, and eligibility depends on individual circumstances.

The Future Of DACA

Since its implementation, DACA has faced numerous legal and political challenges. In September 2017, the Trump administration announced its intention to phase out the program, leading to a series of court battles. In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to terminate DACA, allowing the program to continue for the time being.

However, the long-term future of DACA remains uncertain, as Congress has yet to pass comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the status of Dreamers. Many advocates argue that a permanent legislative solution is needed to provide stability and security for DACA recipients and their families.

Final Thoughts

DACA has provided temporary relief and opportunities for hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the United States as children. While the program’s future remains uncertain, it has sparked ongoing discussions about immigration reform and the need to address the status of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

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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.

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