Part of President Obama's Executive Actions announced in November included expanding deferred action to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US before the age of 16. When he first announced the program in 2012, only those immigrants who were under 32 could apply. The President's announcement in November removed that requirement.
Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would begin accepting such applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on February 18, 2015; and no earlier (http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction#daca).
While the expansion of the DACA program will certainly help additional individuals who may not have previously qualified due to age restrictions, there are still groups of individuals who will not be eligible to request deferred action under the program. The requirement that an applicant enter the US prior to the age of 16 still remains; thus individuals who were 16 or older when they entered do not qualify.
Further, the requirement that an applicant was physically present in the US on June 15, 2012 and that he/she was out of status on that day has not changed. This means that individuals who otherwise qualify for DACA, but who were in valid status on June 15, 2012 and fell out of status after that date are not eligible for this expanded DACA.
Although expanding DACA certainly increases the number of individuals eligible for deferred action, it should not be viewed as encouraging other individuals to enter unlawfully or overstay their visas. The program will not benefit recent arrivals who were not present and out of status in the US on June 15, 2012.
The specific requirements to qualify for expanded DACA, as explained by USCIS, require applicants to show the following:
- They entered the US prior to the age of 16
- They have lived continuously in the US since January 1, 2010
- They have been physically present in the US on June 15, 2012.
- They had no lawful status on June 15, 2012.
- They are in the US at the time of filing for DACA.
- They 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 US; AND
- They have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors; and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.