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DACA Update

On February 6, 2014, USCIS posted it’s latest statistics about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) program. This program was created by President Obama in his administrative discretion not to deport certain young people who came to the US before they were 16. DACA applicants for the most part would have benefited from the DREAM Act if Congress had ever enacted it into law, which it never did.

As of December 31, 2013, USCIS has received 611,000 applications since DACA started in 2012. Another 20,000 were filed but were rejected for various reasons at the lockbox. Of the 611,000, 427,000 were filed in 2013, and 20,000 have been filed so far in 2014. 521,000 DACA applications have been approved since inception of the program. 16,000 have been denied and 72,000 filed in FY2014 are pending. Mexican nationals are the largest users of the program by far, followed by applicants from various Central American countries, S. Korea and the Philippines. Most applicants reside in California, Texas and Illinois. Washington residents rank 11th (13,000 applicants, of which about 11,000 have been approved.) Overall, it is pretty clear that most of the cases have been approved. The first group approved in 2012 are or will be applying for extensions of stay.

Basic requirements

The basic requirements for DACA are that the applicant:
-Was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
-Came to the United States before reaching the 16th birthday;
-Continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
-Was physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the DACA application;
-Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
-Is currently in school, has graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, has obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
-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.
– Must be at least 15 years or older to request deferred action, unless currently in removal proceedings or have a final removal or voluntary departure order, in which case, other rules apply.

For more information, see the USCIS web page on DACA.

Travel

Of particular importance to DACA recipients is the ability to travel abroad. USCIS will only grant “advance parole” after DACA is approved and if travel abroad will be for:
– Educational purposes, such as semester abroad programs or academic research;
– Employment purposes, such as overseas assignments, interviews, conferences, training, or meetings with clients; or – Humanitarian purposes, such as travel to obtain medical treatment, attend funeral services for a family member, or visit an ailing relative. Travel for vacation is not a valid purpose.

For some DACA recipients who receive advance parole and who have NOT been previously ordered deported, they MAY be able to adjust status to permanent residence following a return trip from abroad using the advance parole, such as if married to a US citizen, rather than consular process and apply for waivers of the unlawful presence bar. But whether this should apply in a given case depends on the specific case facts. Therefore, it is highly recommended that DACA recipients discuss travel, advance parole and adjustment options with immigration counsel before doing any international travel even if advance parole is granted. Don’t forget as well, that some immigration issues and criminal histories may be temporarily “forgiven” for DACA purposes, but not necessarily for green card purposes. Likewise, some immigration or criminal histories that would not be a bar to get a green card are not permissible for DACA eligibility. Again, for prospective applicants, anyone with facts going beyond the basic eligibility points above should seek legal advice from a licensed, reputable and experienced immigration lawyer or BIA accredited representative. We offer these services at the Seattle immigration Law Office of Bonnie Stern Wasser. If you cannot afford a lawyer, people interested in applying for DACA should be careful about who they ask for help. There are scams to be aware of as well as individuals not authorized to practice law or before USCIS and other agencies.