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International Student Immigration Issues #7: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – The Benefits, Risks, and Requirements for Students

This is the seventh in our series of posts on international student immigration issues, and our second which focuses specifically on the recent policy change known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  Our guest-blogging attorney, Laurie Woog, who specializes in immigration and naturalization issues, provides further clarity around what the impacts of this policy change will be for undocumented students who wish to attend college.  While the first post answered questions on the basics of what the DACA policy change is, this post will address some of the benefits, risks, and requirements of the policy.

FAQs about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) (Part 2)


What are some benefits of applying for deferred action if I am an undocumented student, or a high school student who wants to apply to college?

While most undocumented students still must pay either international student rates or out-of-state tuition for public colleges – both of which can be pricey –  there are other benefits that will help undocumented students to attend college. If you receive an approval of your DACA application and employment authorization (sometimes referred to as a work permit) you will be able to obtain a social security number, which should enable you to have a wider range of higher education options, obtain a job to help pay for college, obtain a driver’s license, receive some forms of financial aid, and have access to paid internships to advance your career, among other things.  It is unclear whether some states will offer in-state tuition to DACA beneficiaries. Check with a college counselor who may be able to advise you about which state schools allow in-state tuition for undocumented students.


Is there a risk to undocumented family members if I apply for Deferred Action?

There may always be some level of risk in applying for any immigration benefit.  Deferred action is not the same as lawful status.  However, the current position of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is that information provided in a request for DACA benefits will not be utilized for the purpose of removal unless the requestor meets the existing criteria for issuing a “Notice to Appear” in immigration court.  See  Beware, however, that this policy can be changed at any time.

Furthermore, information may be shared with national security or law enforcement agencies for other purposes, such as investigating a crime, fraudulent claim, or for national security purposes.  Therefore, the potential benefits from DACA are useful for most applicants, but each case should be approached individually.  Undecided applicants may want to consult a knowledgeable attorney or legal aid agency for assistance.


What if I don’t have documentary proof that I was in the United States before age 16 or of my continuous residence between June 15, 2007 and August 15, 2012?

If you don’t have proof of certain elements to qualify for Deferred Action, don’t despair.  USCIS may consider circumstantial evidence that indicates you:

  • Were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012;
  • Came to the U.S. before reaching your 16th birthday;
  • Resided continuously in the U.S. between 2007 and 2012, and the circumstantial evidence is used to fill in gaps in that period;
  • Did maintain continuous residence despite a brief visit outside the U.S.

What is “circumstantial evidence”?

For example, let’s say that you have utility bills or high school records for Jan. – May 2011, but nothing for June, July and August.  Your passport shows that you have not left the U.S. during the same period.  Therefore, the evidence you do submit leads to the implication that you were continuously present in May – August 2012.

Can I use circumstantial evidence to show I was a high school graduate or am a college student?

No, you must provide direct proof that you were a student or are currently a college student, such as a diploma, report cards, attendance records, school letters, etc.


Laurie Woog

The Woog Law Office, LLC

Practice Devoted to Immigration and Naturalization Law


Blog post brought to you by:

Andrea Aronson

College Admissions Specialist 

Westfield, NJ

Reader Interactions


  1. Hi Mrs. Aronson,
    i just have a question about undocumented students being able to attend college. This past month I attempted to enroll in a local technical college and they told me that they could not let me in with out me showing them some type of visa apart from the social that I had given to them. I was not aware that they needed that document. Is it necessary? Or is there certain states that are not allowing DACA students to attend college?

  2. Hi Maria,

    I checked with our immigration attorney resource, Laurie Woog, and she provided me with the following answer to your question:

    Deferred action does not confer legal status on undocumented individuals. It provides a mechanism for them to remain in the United States without fear of deportation for two years and to obtain a social security number if they receive work authorization. However, receipt of a social security number does not necessarily entitle the student to attend school wherever he or she wants. While there is no federal law that prohibits the admission of undocumented immigrants to U.S. colleges, public or private, individual schools have varied institutional policies on admitting undocumented students. For example, some four-year (and other) institutions require applicants to submit proof of citizenship or legal residency. Institutions with such a policy may or may not choose to admit recipients of Deferred Action. Many schools accept undocumented applicants but treat them as international students, who are ineligible for state aid and in-state resident rates for tuition. Some states have decided or may decide to extend in-state tuition benefits to Deferred Action recipients. Students will have to find out the particular policies of the schools they wish to attend.

    Hope that helps, and best of luck to you!

    Andrea Aronson

  3. Hi Mrs. Aaronson,
    My name is Kelly and I’ve been browsing the internet recently over a question that I’ve gotten two different responses to but I’m not very sure. I’ve been trying to figure out if students who have applied for Deferred Action may be able to receive athletic scholarships such as in soccer? Do certain states allow that and which ones or are they not eligible at all?

  4. I am an international student (F1-visa) and currently on my STEM extension, so I am not un-documented.
    I am a father of U.S. born child and living in U.S. for more than 5 years. Does this law can help me in any way?

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