On August 15, 2012, USCIS began accepting applications for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) who arrived in the United States as children.  It is important if you are considering applying for this process that you consult with an immigration attorney before applying so you understand the potential risks and benefits associated with applying for this relief. 

One of the biggest misunderstandings I hear regularly is that the deferred action is amnesty.  This is not accurate.  If you are granted deferred action, you will not receive a new immigration status.  Essentially, a grant of deferred action is a promise from the government not to initiate removal proceedings against you for two years.  A person granted deferred action will have to renew the request for deferred action to maintain the guarantee. 

In order to qualify for DACA, an applicant must meet the following threshold criteria: 

  • Was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  • Entered the United States prior to his or her 16th birthday;
  • Has continuously resided within the United States from June 15, 2007 through the present time;
  • Was present within the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making his or her request for consideration of deferred action;
  • Either entered without inspection or his or her lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
  • Is currently in school, has graduated or its equivalent, obtained a GED, or is honorably discharged as a member of the US Coast Guard or Armed Forces; and
  • Has not 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 above criteria raise several questions that should be addressed prior to filing an application for deferred action.  For example, what is a significant misdemeanor?  How do I prove that I was present prior to my 16th birthday, or June 15, 2012, or June 15, 2007?  What type of misdemeanors are considered in three or more other misdemeanors? 

There are also questions that an applicant must consider regarding what happens if the applicant is denied.  Further, anyone applying for this relief is currently removable based on his or her immigration status.  Therefore, one must weigh the risks against the rewards. 

I believe it is extremely important for applicants to seek the advice and counsel of an immigration attorney prior to applying for DACA.  If you have any questions, call the Savannah, Georgia Immigration Lawyers at The Jarrett Firm, LLC today to schedule a consultation and review your eligibility with you.  We look forward to hearing from you.