The USCIS has again provided guidance on the deferred action programs, and the effect this form of relief has on anyone present in the U.S. without documentation. Living in this country without documentation is considered time spent ‘illegally present”, which can in turn provide a basis for denial of any other relief, and operates as a time bar for many aliens living here. The USCIS however clearly indicated that once you are granted deferred action, you are no longer ‘illegally present”, and can be considered lawfully present instead. Lawful presence in the United States can allow applicants to obtain state identification and driver’s licenses, and may allow students to apply for in-state tuition. This will be a tremendous benefit to many, and is a welcome clarification of the status of deferred action recipients.
The text of the guidance issued by the USCIS is below:
New - Q5: Do I accrue unlawful presence if I have a pending request for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals?
A5: You will continue to accrue unlawful presence while the request for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals is pending, unless you are under 18 years of age at the time of the request. If you are under 18 years of age at the time you submit your request, you will not accrue unlawful presence while the request is pending, even if you turn 18 while your request is pending with USCIS. If action on your case is deferred, you will not accrue unlawful presence during the period of deferred action. However, having action deferred on your case will not excuse previously accrued unlawful presence.
New - Q6: If my case is deferred, am I in lawful status for the period of deferral?
A6: No. Although action on your case has been deferred and you do not accrue unlawful presence (for admissibility purposes) during the period of deferred action, deferred action does not confer any lawful status.
The fact that you are not accruing unlawful presence does not change whether you are in lawful status while you remain in the United States. However, although deferred action does not confer a lawful immigration status, your period of stay is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security while your deferred action is in effect and, for admissibility purposes, you are considered to be lawfully present in the United States during that time.
Apart from the immigration laws, “lawful presence”, “lawful status” and similar terms are used in various other federal and state laws. For information on how those laws affect individuals who receive a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion under DACA, please contact the appropriate federal, state or local authorities.
New - Q7: Is there any difference between “deferred action” and “deferred action for childhood arrivals” under this process?
A7: Deferred action for childhood arrivals is one form of deferred action. The relief an individual receives pursuant to the deferred action for childhood arrivals process is identical for immigration purposes to the relief obtained by any person who receives deferred action as an act of prosecutorial discretion.