Understanding DACA Eligibility and Criminal Convictions

Overview of DACA Renewal and Eligibility

As of July 16, 2021, USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) is not granting initial DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) requests, following federal court orders. However, DACA renewal remains available, subject to changes that are promptly updated on the USCIS website.

The Crucial Role of Criminal Convictions in DACA Eligibility

One of the primary challenges faced by foreign nationals seeking DACA is navigating the criminal conviction bar. Under DACA guidelines, individuals are ineligible if they have a felony conviction, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanor convictions.

The Significance of Misdemeanor Convictions

Determining whether a misdemeanor is “significant” is a pivotal aspect, often evaluated on a case-by-case basis by USCIS. Certain crimes such as domestic violence, burglary, sexual abuse, drug trafficking, unlawful firearm possession, and DUI are automatically classified as significant misdemeanors. However, the classification of other misdemeanors depends on various factors, including the sentence received.

Understanding Significant Misdemeanors

While some misdemeanors are straightforwardly categorized as significant, others require closer examination. USCIS typically considers a misdemeanor significant if the defendant served a sentence exceeding 90 days, irrespective of suspended sentences or detention periods pending trial.

Seeking Legal Counsel for DACA Eligibility Assessment

Navigating the complexities of DACA eligibility, particularly concerning criminal convictions, necessitates professional guidance. Consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer can provide invaluable insights into one’s eligibility status and strategies for presenting a compelling case to USCIS.

Addressing Ambiguities in Misdemeanor Classification

Even misdemeanors falling outside the predefined significant categories may impact DACA eligibility based on USCIS discretion. Collaborating with an immigration attorney to contextualize misdemeanor convictions and gather supporting evidence is critical in mitigating potential barriers to DACA relief.

Mitigating DACA Barriers Arising from Multiple Misdemeanor Convictions

Accruing three or more misdemeanor convictions can pose a significant obstacle to DACA eligibility. However, in cases where convictions stem from a single criminal activity sequence, USCIS may count them as a single misdemeanor, potentially alleviating eligibility concerns.

Traffic Offenses and Their Impact on DACA Eligibility

Notably, minor traffic violations such as speeding tickets do not affect DACA eligibility. However, if a traffic offense, like DUI, is classified as a significant misdemeanor by state law, it can render an individual ineligible for DACA, irrespective of the absence of a corresponding misdemeanor conviction.


Navigating DACA eligibility amidst considerations of criminal convictions demands a nuanced understanding of USCIS guidelines and legal nuances. Seeking professional legal counsel and meticulously documenting one’s criminal history can significantly enhance the likelihood of securing DACA relief, empowering individuals to pursue their aspirations in the United States.