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Answering questions about deferred action immigration plan

On Wednesday, August 15, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services began officially accepting applications for its deferred action program focusing on the children of illegal immigrants.

The program allows people who illegally immigrated as children to defer deportation for two years and gain a work permit.

While there has been a great deal of news coverage about the program, and how it may eventually allow your children to gain legal residency in the U.S. so they can send money home, you might still have some questions.

Here's a short summary of some frequent questions from USCIS.

Who is eligible?

In order to qualify for the program, you must have been be under the age of 31 as of June 15, when the program was announced, and have come to the U.S. before the age of 16.

In addition, you need to have stayed in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007, and have been physically in the country on June 15. That continuous residency can include short absences, as long as they were innocent and not because of deportation or other legal issues.

You must also be in school, have graduated from high school or achieved a GED, or served honorably in the armed forces or U.S. Coast Guard. You must also have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors and not pose a threat to national security.

The program also only applies to individuals who qualify, so your immediate relatives are not eligible just because you are.

Is it free?

No, unfortunately the program is not free. The filing of the application comes with a $465 fee, which covers the paperwork processing and issuance of a work permit. There are also no fee waivers for the work permits, and limited fee exemptions in general.

How long will it take? 

There's no good answer to this question. The government hasn't said how long it's likely to take for your application to be processed and read.

The program was only announced two months ago, so USCIS hasn't had that much time to plan. If the agency gets your application and agrees that it is complete, it will have you come in for an appointment. If you want, you can sign up to get an email or text notification that your form has been accepted. 

Does this make me a U.S. citizen?

No, the deferred action does not make you a U.S. citizen, and it can't make you a legal immigrant.

The idea of the program is to delay deportation for two years and make it possible for you to get a legal work permit. That can allow you to apply for official training certificates, industry licenses and other programs to further your career.

After that two-year period is up, you will be able to apply again if the program is still active.

Will this information be shared with enforcement personnel?

No. USCIS says that by law, any information you send in for the program is generally protected from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials for removal purposes.

The only reason the data would be shared with those agencies would be for the investigation of a serious crime, national security or to prevent fraud. That information also extends to any of your family members and/or guardians.

How does someone prove they are in school or graduated?

Since part of the eligibility for the program revolves around school status, there are a number of ways to show that.

For those currently in school – You need to show evidence that you are enrolled in a public or private school, education or other career program.

For those who graduated high school or got a GED – Your high school diploma or GED is enough documentation to show you have completed school.

The key here is to have clear documentation. USCIS says it won't accept any "circumstantial evidence" about your schooling, so get the paperwork to back it up.

Helpful Links


Necessary forms

Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

Form I-765WS, Worksheet


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