Is Your State Aware of the Updated USCIS Language on Qualifying Education Programs?

While the latest numbers from USCIS show that nearly 800,000 individuals have applied for DACA since the program launched, more than half of those potentially eligible to apply still have not done so. Many of those who have not come forward do not meet the program’s education requirement of at least a high school diploma or equivalent and would therefore need to enroll in a qualifying education program to receive DACA. Unfortunately, these individuals are likely to be older and have work and family responsibilities that could present obstacles to enrolling in a program that would help them qualify.

Until mid-2014, the types of programs that could help one qualify for DACA included only a high school equivalency (such as GED) program or “an education, literacy, or career training program (including vocational training) that is designed to lead to placement in postsecondary education, job training, or employment and where you are working toward such placement.” This limited the types of programs aspiring applicants could enroll in to those that led to further education, training, or employment. Updated June 2014 language from USCIS, however, expanded the definition of a qualifying program to “an education, literacy, or career training program (including vocational training) that has a purpose of improving literacy, mathematics, or English or is designed to lead to placement in postsecondary education, job training, or employment.” This change should make it easier for potential applicants to find and enroll in programs that qualify by including those that improve English proficiency or basic skills but don’t necessarily lead to further education or employment.

Despite the fact that this change happened more than a year ago, it appears some states or providers responsible for issuing enrollment verification may not be aware of it. The New York State Department of Education recently updated their guidance on providing employment verification letters—have the Departments of Education in your states issued similar letters?

Expanded options for meeting the educational requirement could help additional youth apply, but outreach will likely be an important part of any efforts to reach the remaining “eligible but for education” population. The Televisa Foundation’s “Think about it” campaign has released a new round of videos, some of which focus on older youth or those that met the program’s education requirement through adult education or an ESL class. In particular, check out Cynthia, Maritza, and Omrie’s stories for great examples of “nontraditional” DACA success stories.

As broader administrative relief programs remain on hold, DACA is still the only way for undocumented youth and young adults to receive work authorization and relief from deportation. Please use the comments section of this post to update the group on any efforts you are involved in or know of that are promoting DACA and education and career progress for DACA youth, and best wishes to all of you for a terrific new year!

Older versions of USCIS DACA FAQs are available here.


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