Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

One big deferred action challenge: How does one prove they've lived in the U.S. for 5 years?

Copies of bills, such as utility bills, are among the documents that deferred action applicants can use to help document five years of residence in the U.S.
Copies of bills, such as utility bills, are among the documents that deferred action applicants can use to help document five years of residence in the U.S.
Photo by pinprick/Flickr (Creative Commons)

During the past two months, ever since the Obama administration announced it would allow young undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary legal status starting today, perhaps the most onerous part of the process for applicants has been procuring the paperwork they'll need to document that they meet the requirements for eligibility.

The requirements are strict. Along with their application, sent in by mail, applicants filing Form-I821D need to provide paper-trail evidence. According to instructions posted yesterday on, the website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, deferred action applicants must file "evidence and supporting documents" showing they:

Entered the U.S. without inspection before last June 15, or had their lawful immigration status expire as of that date; are at least 15 at the time of filing the application; arrived in the U.S. before age 16; were born after June 15, 1981 (were not age 31 or older on June 15, 2012); have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007; were present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012.

Applicants must also prove they are currently in school, have graduated or received a certificate of completion from high school, obtained a general educational development certificate (GED), or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces.

It's the five-year residency requirement that many applicants might find most difficult to document, as a simple identification, expired visa or other document isn't going to be enough. Copies of detailed records are necessary, and USCIS has posted a list of what is acceptable:


  • Rent receipts, utility bills (gas, electric, phone, etc.), receipts or letters from companies showing the dates during which you received service;

  • Employment records (e.g., pay stubs, W-2 Forms, certification of the filing of Federal income tax returns, State verification of the filing of state income tax returns, letters from employer(s), or, if you are self employed, letters from banks and other firms with whom you have done business);

  • School records (transcripts, report cards, etc.) from the schools that you have attended in the United States, showing the name(s) of the schools and periods of school attendance;

  • Military records (e.g., Form DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty; NGB Form 22, National Guard Report of Separation and Record of Service; military personnel records; or military health records);

  • Hospital or medical records concerning treatment or hospitalization, showing the name of the medical facility or physician and the date(s) of the treatment or hospitalization;

  • Official records from a religious entity in the United States confirming your participation in a religious ceremony, rite, or passage (e.g., baptism, first communion, wedding);

  • Money order receipts for money sent in or out of the country; passport entries; birth certificates of children born in the United States; dated bank transactions; correspondence between you and another person or organization; U.S. Social Security card; automobile license receipts, title, vehicle registration, etc.; deeds, mortgages, rental agreements, contracts to which you have been a party; tax receipts; insurance policies; receipts; postmarked letters; or

  • Any other relevant document.


The USCIS site notes that a "brief, casual, and innocent absence" from the U.S. does not count as an interruption of continuous residence, although applicants must list all absences from the country and document them with evidence such as airplane tickets, passport entries, etc.

Detailed instructions on the application process can be found here; application forms and other documents can be found at