Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: Do I Qualify?

Beginning today, August 15, 2012, USCIS will begin to accept applications for deferred action.  Here are the official USCIS criteria for qualifying for deferred action under the administration’s new program:

  • Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  • Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  • Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
  • Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

What surprised me is that in bullet #6 they say “have obtained” a GED, seeming to indicate that one must already have earned a GED before one can qualify.  However, in guidance USCIS states that “currently in school” means currently enrolled in:

  • a public or private elementary school, junior high or middle school, high school, or secondary school;
  • an education, literacy, or career training program (including vocational training) that is designed to lead to placement in postsecondary education, job training, or employment and where you are working toward such placement; or
  • an education program assisting students either in obtaining a regular high school diploma or its recognized equivalent under state law (including a certificate of completion, certificate of attendance, or alternate award), or in passing a General Educational Development (GED) exam or other equivalent state-authorized exam.

USCIS seems to greatly expand the deferred action program through this intepretation, even though on its face it seems to contradict bullet #6, by allowing those enrolled in certain education programs, not only those that lead to a GED, to qualify.  Although, the qualification criteria appear simple on their face the terms used have legal meaning and consequences. Therefore, before anyone applies for deferred action they should consult with a qualified immigration attorney to see if it is in their best interest.  For a limited time, Valverde and Rowell is offering free consultations to potential deferred action candidates.

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