Have I Missed the DACA Deadline, or Can I still Apply?

As of late 2017, only people who already hold DACA can apply for renewal; no new applications are being accepted, and the program is being phased out by the Trump Administration.

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

The Trump Administration is, as of late 2017, in the process of phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Unless Congress takes action, no new DACA applications will be accepted in the future, and only limited renewals will be allowed. For details, see "Trump Ends DACA Program for Young Immigrants: What's Next?".

Until Donald J. Trump took office, applications were being accepted on a rolling basis, with the idea of continuing this for as long as the program remained in existence. (President Obama's original plan in creating the program, by means of an executive order, was that it serve as a stopgap until Congress took action to pass comprehensive immigration reform, including something similar to DACA known as the DREAM Act.

There is still hope, however, that Congress will act, and hopefully replace DACA with an actual long-term legal program.

Here are more details on past DACA eligibility requirements. If Congress acts, something similar might eventually become law; but otherwise, the below should be regarded largely as historical information.

Applicants for DACA must have been born on or after June 15, 1981 and have been under 16 when they came to the U.S., and have arrived in the U.S. before June 15, 2007 and continuously resided in the U.S. since; and also been present in the United States without lawful status on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the DACA request.

Many students consider applying for DACA when preparing to enter college. Although DACA does not offer long-term legal status in the U.S., it does protect 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.

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. And if and when the DACA program ends, your personal information could be used as a basis upon which to deport you. 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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