Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Under DACA, undocumented young adults may be able to avoid removal from the United States and apply for work authorization to stay in the country after their deferment period, which may last up to two years. Eligibility for deferred action is limited to a somewhat narrow pool of immigrants.
To apply for deferred action, you must be able to prove all of the following:
- You arrived in the United States before your sixteenth birthday;
- You were not yet thirty-one years of age as of June 15, 2012;
- You have continuously resided and been physically present in the United States since June 15, 2007;
- You are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Armed Forces or United States Coast Guard;
- You have not been: (a) convicted of a felony (b) convicted of a serious misdemeanor, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, drug distribution, unlawful use of a firearm, or DWI (c) convicted of three or more other misdemeanors, AND (d) do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Remember that DACA is currently a program based on federal policy, not federal law. Furthermore, the requirements based on specific dates may change in the future. If you believe you are eligible for deferred action, you should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer about applying.
If you have come to the United States because you need protection from persecution in your home country due to your race, religion, nationality, political affiliation, or membership in a social group, you may be eligible to apply for asylum. Remember you must apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States.
An immigrant who has been granted asylum may ultimately be able to:
- Get authorization to work in the U.S.
- Obtain an unrestricted Social Security number
- Petition to bring family members into the United States
- Apply for permanent resident status after one year in the U.S.
Note that while you cannot apply for work authorization at the same time when you apply for asylee status, you may apply for employment authorization while your asylum application is pending if 150 days have passed since you applied and no decision has been reached on your application.
The requirements and benefits of being granted refugee status are quite similar to those for asylee status. The primary difference is that a person seeking refugee status must be located outside of the United States at the time the application is made while a person already in the United States should apply for asylum. The entire application process, including the interview with an immigration officer, is conducted abroad.
Furthermore, a refugee is also generally defined as someone who has fled their homeland. Therefore, someone who is still living in his or her country of origin will not typically be considered as eligible for refugee status. There are some exceptions, including for Iraqi citizens who are direct-hire employees of the U.S. government or government contractors, U.S. media outlets, and U.S. non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
People who are at risk in their home country specifically because of their association with the U.S. may be eligible for admission to the United States as a refugee. Often, a refugee may also petition for his or her spouse and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one to gain admission to the U.S.
Each application for refugee status is decided on a case-by-case basis. It is imperative to have an experienced U.S. immigration attorney help you with your application so you do not unintentionally become disqualified. For example, if you are determined to be “firmly resettled” in another country, you will likely not be given U.S. refugee status. Applying for refugee status can be a labyrinthine process. A knowledgeable immigration lawyer can help you understand each step you must take in your application.