Official Application Instructions from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (the “DREAM Act”) was first introduced to Congress in August 2001. The bill proposed to grant conditional permanent residency to undocumented individuals who arrived in the U.S. as minors, graduated from U.S. high schools or serve in the U.S. military, lived continuously in the U.S. for at least five years before the bill’s enactment, and were of good moral character. Once an individual obtained conditional residency under the act and satisfied certain other requirements, he or she would be eligible for permanent residency. Since its introduction, the bill has been buffeted about by the House and Senate, with detractors claiming the act would encourage illegal immigration and invite fraud, and supporters arguing the act would result in myriad social and economic benefits. (Access the most recent version of the bill, which was introduced to the Senate in May 2011.) As efforts at compromise have repeatedly stalled, passage of the bill’s comprehensive reform provisions has grown increasingly unlikely.

In June 2012, President Obama issued an executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security to cease initiation of deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants no older than 30 years old who came to the U.S. before age 16; have lived in the U.S. for at least five years; have clean criminal backgrounds; and either are in school, are high school graduates, or are military veterans in good standing. The executive order directed qualifying individuals to apply to Homeland Security for “deferred action” status. Under deferred action status, for a renewable period of two years, deportation proceedings are deferred, and the individual may apply for work authorization. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a directive on June 15, 2012, to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) concerning enforcement of the President’s executive order. (Access Secretary Napolitano’s directive.)

In early August 2012, USCIS issued formal deferred action application instructions. In order to apply for deferred action status, individuals who have never been placed in removal proceedings will submit their applications to USCIS, and individuals with a pending removal case will submit their applications to Immigration Customs and Enforcement (“ICE”). USCIS began accepting requests for consideration of deferred action on August 15, 2012. An individual may apply for deferred action status if the individual:

  1. Was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before reaching his or her 16th birthday;
  3. Has continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Was physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or the individual’s lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
  6. Is currently in school, has graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, has obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  7. Has not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

In order to request consideration for deferred action status from USCIS, qualifying individuals must submit Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, to USCIS. This form must be completed, properly signed and accompanied by a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and a Form I-765WS, Worksheet, establishing the individual’s economic need for employment (along with the accompanying filing fees for that form, totaling $465).

Immediate relatives of individuals with deferred action status will not be eligible for deferred action status unless they also meet the eligibility criteria. Individuals applying for deferred action but who have a criminal conviction or whose application contains fraud will be referred to ICE. Individuals can call the USCIS hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at 1-888-351-4024 during business hours with questions or to request more information on the application process.