Obama's Executive Action Expands DACA to Older Immigrants

The age cap of 31 has been removed from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

**WARNING: The below update refers to a program that the Trump Administration is in the process of phasing out. 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?".

Within the next 90 days or so, President Obama's immigration executive action will open the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to older immigrants. Since its inception, DACA has limited its relief to only those immigrants who were under age 31 on June 15, 2012, when DACA was first announced. The new executive action removes this age cap and extends its benefits from two years to three years (with the possibility to renew in three-year increments).

This expansion will help older immigrants who would have otherwise qualified for deferred action if they hadn't “aged out.” For example, Jose Antonio Vargas, a well-known journalist and activist who was brought to the U.S. at age 12, missed the initial DACA age cutoff by only a few months. Now he will be permitted to legally work in the United States.

In addition, DACA applicants now need only have been continuously present in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 (previously June 15, 2007).

What the new DACA rules don’t do is provide a green card or a path to citizenship for those who immigrated at a young age and may only remember ever living in the United States. These immigrants, long known as “DREAMers,” have long advocated for the U.S. to allow them to apply for not only a work permit, but legal permanent residency. However, since only Congress can change U.S. rules on green card eligibility, President Obama's executive actions cannot offer a permanent fix for DREAMers. Aside from the changes noted above, the other requirements for DACA remain unchanged. In order to be eligible for DACA, you must:

  • be physically present in the U.S. at the time of your application,
  • be at least 15 years old at the time of your application (unless you are already in deportation proceedings),
  • have arrived in the U.S. before age 16,
  • have graduated from high school (or still be attending high school), earned your GED equivalency, or received an honorable discharge from U.S. military service, and
  • have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors or pose a national security or public safety threat

Nolo will be updating its DACA section in upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for more information on how to apply for DACA once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting applications under the new rules and for new information and developments on President Obama’s recent immigration actions.