The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program took effect in June 2012 under the Obama administration. The policy intended to support undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children and had lived a majority of their lives in the U.S. without immigration protections. In the 10 years since its establishment, over 800,000 individuals have registered for DACA status, despite the program facing many political and legal challenges.
In this guide, we’ll cover the current status of DACA, as well as common questions and helpful resources for DACA recipients during each stage of their immigration journey:
DACA, an acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a policy established by the Obama administration that protects young people — known as “DREAMers” — who entered the U.S. unlawfully as children and remained in the country. Obtaining DACA status temporarily protects eligible individuals from deportation and allows them to work and study in the U.S., but it does not grant permanent legal status or provide a pathway to citizenship. More details on DACA eligibility and the application process can be found in Boundless’ guide to DACA.
Current Status of the DACA Program
The program has faced many challenges since its establishment 10 years ago. During the previous administration, President Trump repeatedly tried to dismantle DACA and barred new applications for the duration of his presidency.
After the program was reinstated under the Biden administration, the processing of new applications was halted yet again. In July 2021, a federal judge declared DACA unlawful and ruled that first-time DACA applicants were barred from applying to the program. Since then, thousands of applicants have been unable to work and at risk of deportation while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is unable to approve initial DACA requests and cases remain pending.
You can find a detailed history of the program and the most up-to-date information on its current status in Boundless’ guide to DACA.
Understanding DACA Work Authorization
An important aspect of the DACA process is obtaining work authorization in the U.S.. Eligible DACA recipients can apply for an “Employment Authorization Document”, or work permit, to prove to prospective employers that they are legally able to work. Boundless put together a detailed guide on how to apply for work authorization, including information on processing times, filing costs, and eligibility requirements. You can also find important legal information for workers on DACA status and their employers at the U.S. Department of Justice site. Tips on how to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) for DACA recipients is available here.
Interested in a more long-term work authorization solution? It may be possible to apply for an H-1B work visa while on DACA status. Check out Boundless’ article on how to transition from DACA to H-1B status and see if this may be an option for you.
Traveling on DACA Status
International travel is a common question for many DACA recipients and it is important to read up on travel restrictions and requirements before making any travel arrangements. DACA recipients are not able to travel outside of the U.S. without travel authorization from the U.S. government. DACA can apply for travel authorization by filing a form known as Advance Parole. Obtaining this document allows individuals to travel abroad only for specific reasons, notably for employment, educational, or humanitarian purposes. Traveling for vacation is generally not accepted. For more information on the Advance Parole process for DACA recipients and how to apply, check out Boundless’ guide to Advance Parole.
Renewing Your DACA Status
DACA status is valid for two years, with an option to renew for an additional two years. It is important to submit a renewal request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) between 120 and 150 days before your current status expires to avoid any lapse in status. You can find more information on how to renew your DACA status and which government forms to submit in Boundless’ guide to the DACA application.
DACA to Green Card
Since the DACA program does not provide a pathway to permanent legal status or citizenship, recipients often wonder about their long-term immigration options and whether it is possible to obtain a green card in the future. In the family-based immigration system, DACA recipients who are married to U.S. citizens or green card holders may be eligible for a green card through marriage.
If you are married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder, Boundless put together a guide to help you understand your potential green card options. If you or your loved one have ever overstayed a visa or entered the U.S. illegally, this resource on special considerations for undocumented spouses may also be helpful as you explore your immigration options.
Need help with your immigration journey? Boundless offers premium immigration support for eligible DACA holders for a fraction of what it costs to hire a private attorney.
Navigating the U.S. Education System
Every individual under the age of 18 in the U.S. has the legal right to attend public school, regardless of immigration status. Boundless put together a guide on how to navigate the U.S. education system, including an explanation of how public school is structured in the U.S., how to enroll in specific schools, and more.
After graduating high school, DACA holders may be wondering what their options are for higher education, what U.S. colleges they are eligible to apply for, and how they will be able to fund their schooling. We’ve put together a list of higher education resources for DACA holders that may be helpful:
|Public School Resources for DACA Recipients||U.S. Department of Education’s immigrant, refugee, and asylee resources page |
|Financial Aid and Scholarship Opportunities for DACA Recipients||Scholarships for Hispanic and Latino students |
|U.S. Education Policies on DACA||Higher Education Immigration Portal|
|U.S. College Information for DACA Recipients||DACA College Guide |
Getting a U.S. Driver’s License
The guidelines for granting immigrants U.S. driver’s licenses vary by state. Being eligible for DACA does not automatically provide access to a state driver’s license, but DACA recipients that do receive proper work authorization and Social Security numbers (SSN) should be able to obtain a license lawfully in every state. More information on DACA status and U.S. driver’s license eligibility can be found here.
Financial Resources for DACA Recipients
Navigating the U.S. financial system on your own can be challenging, especially for DACA recipients who may not have access to the same support and resources U.S. citizens do. This financial planning resource for DREAMers provides information on how to start your financial journey in the U.S., whether that be obtaining tuition assistance, applying for a credit card, and more.
Opening a U.S. Bank Account
Need information on how to set up a savings or checking account in the U.S.? Check our guide on navigating the U.S. banking system as an immigrant, including how to open a bank account. You can also find a complete guide to obtaining a bank loan as a DACA recipient here.
Buying a Home
Can DACA recipients become homeowners? Generally speaking, there are no restrictions on who can buy and own property in the U.S. based on immigration status, which means that most DACA recipients are able to purchase a home. You can find a DACA-specific guide to obtaining home loans and mortgage assistance programs here.
Understanding Your Health Insurance Options
The U.S. healthcare system is complex and can be difficult to navigate for even native-born Americans, let alone immigrants. Understanding your health insurance options and how to obtain affordable coverage as a DACA holder is a crucial aspect of life in the U.S.. Check out Boundless’ healthcare guide and the federal healthcare marketplace for more helpful information. This comprehensive guide also contains helpful healthcare information for DACA holders, what programs they may be eligible for, and what barriers they may face in obtaining coverage.
Do you require legal assistance as a DACA recipient? United We Dream (UWD), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the DACA program, has a comprehensive list of organizations that provide DACA assistance. You can use UWD’s list to search for relevant legal assistance in your state.
What if I have a criminal record?
If you have a criminal record, you may also be wondering about the implications on your current DACA status or the status of an upcoming renewal. Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) has a help center for DACA recipients with criminal records. If you need more information for your specific situation, another organization, ImmigrationHelp.org, has a detailed Q&A on the impact of criminal charges on past and current DACA applications.