Have I missed the DACA deadline, or can I still apply?

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Question:

I’m 17 years old and will be graduating from high school next spring. I always thought I was born in the U.S., but when I was starting to look into applying for college, my parents told me that I was actually born in Honduras, and have no legal status in the United States. I think I might be eligible for DACA, but is it too late to apply?

Answer:

There is no deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis for as long as the program remains in existence (which it’s likely to do at least through the conclusion of the Obama administration, or until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform and hopefully replaces DACA with an actual long-term legal program).

Also, you don’t have to worry about getting too old to apply for DACA. When the Obama administration revised the DACA program in November 2014, it eliminated the previous requirement that applicants be born on or after June 15, 1981. You still need to have been under 16 when you came to the U.S., and (under the revised DACA program) you must have arrived in the U.S. before January 1, 2010.

Like you, many students consider applying for DACA when preparing to enter college. Although DACA does not give you long-term legal status in the U.S., it does protect you from deportation, stop your accrual of “unlawful presence” (a problem if you ever apply for a visa or green card), and allow you to obtain permission to work as well as (depending on the law in your state) a driver’s license. For a rundown on which states refuse to provide drivers licenses to DACA recipients, see the National Immigration Law Center’s discussion of “DACA and Driver’s Licenses.” 

Of course, you will want to carefully consider the risks before you apply for DACA. If, for example, you have committed immigration fraud or any crimes, or might for any reason be considered a national security threat, applying would only bring your case to the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and could result in your removal (deportation) from the United States. See “Who Shouldn't Apply for DACA Deferred Action” for more information.

You might also want to look into whether you qualify for any more stable immigration relief, such as asylum. (See “If I am eligible for DACA, should I apply for that or asylum?”) If possible, have a talk with your parents about why they left Honduras, and set up a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney. Your school might also provide some information and resources to students interested in applying for DACA.

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