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Who can file Form I-821D? A few basics as deferred action process starts

A man holds a list of guidelines during a deferred action applicants' workshop at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles, Aug. 14, 2012
A man holds a list of guidelines during a deferred action applicants' workshop at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles, Aug. 14, 2012 Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Today is the day that young undocumented immigrants may begin filing applications for deferred action, a form of temporary legal status that is part of a new Obama administration policy announced in June. As many as 1.76 million people under 31 could be eligible, according to one recent estimate, and heavy demand is anticipated as applications start coming in.

Those who have been preparing the necessary paperwork have been getting ready since June, most recently with the help of detailed guidelines. As of yesterday afternoon, the application form* went up on uscis.gov, the website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, along with instructions on how to apply. Here are the basics as to who may file Form I-821D:

1. Childhood Arrivals Who Have Never Been in Removal Proceedings

If you have never been in removal proceedings, but were in unlawful status as of June 15, 2012, submit this form to request that USCIS consider deferring action in your case. For deferred action for childhood arrivals, unlawful status means your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012, or you entered the United States without inspection. You must be 15 years of age or older at the time of filing and meet the guidelines described in the Secretary's memorandum to be considered for deferred action.

2. Childhood Arrivals Whose Removal Proceedings Were Terminated

If you were in removal proceedings which have been terminated by the immigration judge prior to this request, you may use this form to request that USCIS consider deferring action in your case. You must be 15 years of age or older at the time of filing and meet the guidelines described in the Secretary's memorandum to be considered for deferred action.

3. Childhood Arrivals In Removal Proceedings, With a Final Removal Order, or With Voluntary Departure

If you are currently in removal proceedings, have a final removal order, or have a voluntary departure order, you may use this form to request that USCIS consider deferring action in your case, even if you are under the age of 15 at the time of filing. You must also meet the requirements described in the Secretary's memorandum, including the requirement that you were not age 31 or older on June 15, 2012, to be considered for deferred action.


Childhood arrivals for this purpose are individuals who arrived in the United States before they turned 16. The instructions also list the by now familiar list of criteria: That the applicant was under 31 as of last June 15, when the new policy was announced; has resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007; was present in the country on June 15; has not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety, and several other requirements.

The most difficult task for many will be to prove that they have been in the U.S. continuously for five years. Yesterday at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles, I spoke with immigration attorney Noemi Ramirez, one of several attorneys participating in a series of workshops for hopeful deferred action applicants. The five-year rule is perhaps the least understood, she said, at least in terms of how to prove long-term residency.

"One important factor that most of them do not understand is when the requirements say you need five years of continuous residence, I see that most of the students or most who apply don’t understand what that means," Ramirez said. "Immigration wants concrete evidence. They will not accept affidavits. So they want anything that is an objective type of documentation, like school transcripts, bills, bank statements."

There is a list on the USCIS instruction form that details just what documents are useful in proving five years of continuous residence in the U.S. I'll publish the complete list in a forthcoming post.

According to USCIS, the application forms may be sent in by mail only, and there is presently no cutoff date for sending them in.

*Anyone having trouble opening the application form? Please post a comment. 

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