Explainer: What You Should Know About Deferred Action

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Today is a landmark day for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants. They can start applying for temporary work permits under President Barack Obama's deferred action initiative.

Some young undocumented immigrants pushed for the Dream Act, a bill that would have provided a path to citizenship to those who served in the military or attended college. It failed in the Senate in 2010, but many of those who would have been eligible for the Dream Act will qualify for deferred action. It does not offer a path to citizenship, but DREAMers and immigration advocates are hailing the initiative.

What is deferred action for childhood arrivals?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) begins accepting applications for deferred action from undocumented immigrants who arrived to the United States as children on August 15. That means they'll be considered for a two-year reprieve from deportation and, if approved, for a work permit. It gives these young immigrants a chance to work legally and get a driver’s license.

How many people will this program likely impact?

A non-partisan think tank, the Migration Policy Institute, estimates that 110,000 people in New York State and 70,000 people in New Jersey alone will be eligible. Nation-wide the number may be closer to 1.8 million, according to the institute. USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas said it could take several months to process these applications, although it’s difficult to estimate exactly how long it will take. It depends on the volume of applications in the coming weeks and months.

What conditions do these undocumented immigrants have to satisfy to qualify for deferred action?

The program applies to young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday. As of June 15, they must be over the age of 15 and under the age of 31, and have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years. They also need to have a high school diploma or a GED, or currently be enrolled in school. They can also be honorably discharged military veterans. They must not have been convicted of a serious crime.

What about young undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes. Can they apply?

That depends on the seriousness of the crime and at what age it was committed — as a juvenile or an adult. Those convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three non-significant misdemeanors will not be eligible for deferred action. For example, driving under the influence is considered a significant misdemeanor. If the young undocumented immigrants were convicted as a juvenile, or their conviction were expunged, they will not be automatically disqualified.

Some immigrants have been fearful that they might end up being deported if their request is denied, or that family members who are not eligible for deferred action might be in danger. Is that something that could happen?

Federal officials say this won't happen. Only those who commit a fraud in their application, have a criminal conviction on their record, or are thought to be a threat to national security or public safety would be put in deportation proceedings.

What do immigrants who satisfy the criteria need to do?

They will have to submit records that prove they qualify for deferred action. Those can include medical, financial and school records. All who apply will have to go through background checks, including fingerprinting. In all, it'll cost $465 to apply. The application process will be funded through the fees, not by taxpayers.


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Comments [10]

Maria Perez

I was approved for deferred action in May 2013 and I haven't work yet. Am I required to work to be eligible to renew my work permit?

Jan. 31 2014 11:58 PM
mariana from Ca

after being approved are we join the military?.

May. 31 2013 12:53 AM

hey I came here in the month of september of 207 ,can I still apply or it has to be the date that the president said?

Nov. 15 2012 08:41 PM
Cali Native from Michigan

I am an immigration law clerk, and we have experienced that it takes about ten weeks for applicants to get approved for Deferred Action. We've just begun receiving approvals for those who applied as soon as the Deferred Action initiative was passed in August. The application processing time could depend on the volume of applications at the office where your application is being processed.

Nov. 06 2012 10:28 AM
Craig from WA

I'm a Canadian citizen but have been in America since I was six years old-- I mailed my application in about two weeks ago and have no idea how long it's supposed to take; is there any word on how long the applications take to process? Have people actually been approved already?

Oct. 28 2012 04:20 PM
Daniel California from SD

If approved for deferred action, could and individual join the Armed forces?

Sep. 05 2012 09:16 PM
jerry from california


If the republicans were to veto this act it does not affect the people who are already in the program. It will just mean no new applicants will be accepted. As for the people who qualify for this program every two years they will have to pay $465.00 to renew it with no limits on how many times you can renew it. However they will have to maintain a clean record in order to renew it. This is not a pathway to citizenship is just a way for them to feel some sort of freedom. Hope this helps answer your question.

Aug. 17 2012 02:17 PM

So what happens after the two years are up? Do they have to keep re-upping it every two years for $465? Or what if a Republican gets in and cancels the whole thing? This is like the Obamacare of immigration reform. It doesn't really do anything to resolve the issue but it makes a good talking point for the election.

Aug. 15 2012 12:21 PM
Virginia from Stamford, CT

For DACA applicants living in Connecticut, the International Institute of Connecticut is offering information sessions, consultations, and help putting together applications with their lawyers at their offices in Stamford, Bridgeport or Hartford. Information sessions. Anybody in CT willing to help out, contact or join an organization like IIC or CT Students 4 a Dream (

Here is a link with a list of documents you can start getting together and the address for each location:
Locations, times and dates:

Bridgeport Office
Saturday August 18th, 25th, September 8th, 15th, 23rd
8:30 - Registration
9:30 - Information Session
9am - 2pm Consultations and Application Assistance

Stamford Office
Saturday August 18th, 25th, September 8th, 15th, 23rd
9:00 - Registration
9:30 - Information Session
9:00am - 3pm Consultations and Application Assistance

Hartford Office
Saturday August 18th, 25th, September 8th
9:00 - Registration
10:00 - Information Session
9:00 - 2pm Consultations and Application Assistance

Valley Outreach Project - At Valley Regional Adult Education (VRAE) Saturday August 18th (25th TBD)
9:00 - Registration
9:30 - Information Session
10am - 2pm Consultations and Application Assistance

Derby Information Session
Wednesday August 29th
at the Derby Public Library
313 Elizabeth Street Derby, CT 06418
5:00 PM- 7:30 PM

Special Information Session with USCIS
Thursday August 23rd 4pm - 5:30pm Location TBD - Bridgeport, CT
Co-Sponsored by CT Students 4 a Dream, Catholic Charities and IICONN

Aug. 15 2012 10:33 AM
Tom from Williamsburg

Any social security card issued to a non citizen is stamped with the words " Valid for work only with INS authorization".

Aug. 15 2012 10:28 AM

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