As controversy continues to swirl around DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), many of those who fall under this category are worried and anxious, and have many crucial questions which require experienced, thoughtful answers, preferably from an experienced Houston immigration lawyer. DACA is a federal government program created under the presidency of Barack Obama. DACA was meant to allow those who were brought to the United States illegally as children, the (temporary) right to work, live and study in this country. Those who applied for DACA were vetted from threats to national security and/or criminal history, and were required to be students, or to have completed military service or school. There were also such requirements for application as:
- The applicant must have been younger than 31 on June 15, 2012;
- The applicant must have arrived in America prior to the age of 16;
- The applicant must not have been convicted of a felony, a serious misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanor offenses;
- The applicant must have lived in the U.S. continuously since June 2007, and
- The applicant must have been undocumented (lacking legal immigration status).
Those who passed the vetting process received a two-year deferment for deportation, with a chance to renew. They also received eligibility for such basics as a work permit, a driver’s license, and the ability to enroll in college. Those who fell under the DACA protections are known as “Dreamers,” and by the time President Trump announced he would rescind the program, 787,580 Dreamers had gained DACA approval. These “Dreamers” are largely from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico, with the largest number of Dreamers, ranging in ages from 15 to 36, living in New York, Florida, Texas and California. Those who were granted DACA status received a written notice of that decision.
What are your next steps if your DACA is ending, but you are now married to a U.S. citizen?
While obtaining a green card via marriage to a U.S. citizen is generally considered one of the quickest paths to citizenship, many couples do not realize that permanent residence is not automatic following the marriage. One of the most important factors is the manner in which the applicant entered the United States. If the applicant entered without inspection (by crossing the land border not at a point of entry), the applicant will need to file an “extreme hardship” waiver. However, if the applicant entered with a visa or by using “advance parole” after being granted DACA, the application process will be very different. The bottom line is that while it is certainly possible for an undocumented spouse to obtain a green card by marrying a U.S. citizen, the procedure is complex, requiring a thorough analysis by an experienced Houston immigration lawyer. Because additional complications could potentially arise, having a knowledgeable Houston immigration attorney by your side will help ensure the process goes smoothly, particularly during the present uncertainty associated with DACA.