The Waiting Game:  Update on DAPA and Expanded DACA

In November 2014, President Obama released an executive action that was estimated to help up to 4.4 million people. [1] Part of the executive action was designed to provide temporary lawful status to two groups of people: (1) parents of U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) children and (2) undocumented people, born before June 14, 1981, who entered the U.S. as children and have remained in the U.S. However, as you have heard, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is not accepting applications for either of these programs. [2] This post will explain: (1) what is “deferred action” (2) who would be eligible for the programs, (2) why the programs are on hold and (3) why timing is crucial to the survival of these programs.

What is deferred action?

Deferred action is temporary. DHS prioritizes the deportation of certain non-citizens; for example, individuals who DHS decides are threats to national security, public safety and border security are prioritized for removal. [3] Basically, during a period of deferred action, you are not a priority for deportation. A person granted deferred action is considered to be lawfully present in the U.S. for as long as that person maintains that status. Deferred action under DAPA and expanded DACA is valid for three years and can be renewed.

Deferred action is discretionary. Even if an applicant meets all of the requirements, it is not mandatory for DHS to grant her deferred action. Deferred action is not, in itself, a path to lawful permanent residence or citizenship.

Who would be eligible for DAPA?

To be eligible for DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents), you must:

  • Be the parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  • Have continuously lived in the U.S. since January 1, 2010.
  • Have been present in the U.S. on November 20, 2014. It’s also likely that you will need to be present in the U.S. every day from Nov. 20, 2014, until you apply for DAPA.
  • Not have a lawful immigration status on November 20, 2014 (you must have entered the U.S. without papers, OR your lawful immigration status must have expired before November 20, 2014; AND you must not have a lawful immigration status at the time you apply for DAPA).
  • Have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses, including any felonies and some misdemeanors.


Who would be eligible for the expanded DACA program?

To be eligible for the expanded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, you must:

  • Have come to the United States before your sixteenth birthday.
  • Have continuously lived in the U.S. since January 1, 2010.
  • Have been present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and on every day since August 15, 2012.
  • Have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or “be in school” on the date that you submit your deferred action application.
  • Have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses.


Why can’t I apply for DAPA or expanded DACA now?

Twenty-six states filed a lawsuit in federal district court to stop DAPA and expanded DACA in December 2014. They argued that the programs exceeded the federal government’s authority and were implemented without following proper notice procedures. After filing the lawsuit, the states obtained an injunction on the programs in February 2015. This means that the judge placed DAPA and DACA on hold while the district court decides the case. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on April 18, 2016. A decision is expected in May or June of 2016. Meanwhile, an estimated 4 million people eligible for these programs remain in limbo.


[2] USCIS is accepting applications for original DACA and original DACA renewals.