Columbia University in the City of New York

What is DACA?

What is DACA?

  • DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It was established in 2012 by President Obama and allows undocumented individuals who entered the United States as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of “deferred action” or protection from deportation. Some undocumented students at Columbia and at other colleges and universities in the U.S. have DACA status.
     
  • DACA enables recipients to further or complete their educations, to work, to obtain drivers’ licenses and social security numbers, and build personal credit history. In addition, it allows undocumented individuals to exit and re-enter the country. 
     
  • DACA status provides protection against deportation. Although statements were made during President Trump’s election campaign about ending DACA, the program currently remains in place. 
     
  • The U.S. federal government grants DACA status on a case-by-case basis. It is not a step towards gaining permanent residency or citizenship. (See “What is the Dream Act?”) 

What does it mean to be undocumented?

Individuals may be considered undocumented if

  • They entered the United States with a valid visa or other lawful status, but their immigration status has expired;
  • They applied for but were denied authorization to enter or remain in the United States;
  • They have not applied to obtain any legal status that would permit them to remain in the United States. 

Learn more here.


Who can obtain DACA status?

Undocumented people living in the United States must prove the following criteria to be eligible for DACA:

  1. Were under age 31 as of June 15, 2012 (born June 16, 1981 or later)
  2. Came to the United States before their 16th birthday
  3. Have resided in the United States since at least June 15, 2007 through now
  4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012 and at the time of requesting deferred action through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  5. Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012
  6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certification of completion of high school, have obtained a GED certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces or Coast Guard 
  7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors
  8. Are at least 15 years or older, unless currently involved in a removal proceeding or have a final removal or voluntary departure order

For those granted DACA, it may take four to eight months after submitting necessary forms to receive an Employment Authorization Card.

Get more information about the process and forms for requesting DACA here.
Read more FAQ about obtaining DACA here


What is the DREAM Act? Who are “DREAMers”?
DREAM stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. The DREAM Act was bipartisan legislation proposed in 2001 to grant conditional and eventual permanent residency to undocumented individuals who meet various established requirements. 

The term “DREAMer” has been used to describe undocumented individuals who were brought to the United States as children, who have lived and gone to school in the U.S., and who self-identify as U.S. citizens. 

Read more about the DREAM Act of 2011:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/senate-bill/952 
and its history:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/107th-congress/senate-bill/1291