Chicago Immigration Attorney


Deferred Action (DACA)



On June 15, 2012, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote a memo to the heads of various immigration agencies regarding “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA). It is important to understand what DACA is, and what it is not.


DACA is a process by which individuals meeting certain criteria are able to apply for protection from deportation for renewable two-year periods, during which they may also be able to obtain work authorization and permission to travel abroad. DACA IS NOT the “DREAM Act”, it DOES NOT create a path to citizenship, it IS NOT a new law, it DOES NOT create any new immigration status, and it is up to the discretion of DHS to grant it or take it away. Nobody knows what will happen to DACA in the future – it could be stopped, it could be closed to new applicants but renewed for those who have it, it could be made permanent – nobody knows. What we do know is that it exists right now, and that applying may be a good idea for some people but a bad idea for others.


In order to qualify for DACA, individuals must show that they:


  1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before their 16th birthday;
  3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request;
  5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or had their lawful immigration status expire before June 15, 2012;
  6. Are currently in school or certain educational programs, or (at the time of filing) have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  7. Have not 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.


The process of applying for DACA is fully explained on the USCIS website, but qualifying for DACA does not erase the immigration consequences of prior acts, so it is important to seek legal advice before submitting an application.


The decision of whether to apply for DACA or not should be made with care. As with any immigration application, there are risks and uncertainty that go up or down depending on the details of each case. Knowing what these risks are will allow you to make an informed decision about whether to apply for DACA.


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