I am a DACA student in the US in my last year of my PhD program, and that means that I will be applying for postdoc and professor positions. However, DACA status means that I am ineligible to apply for federal research grants and I am limited to only applying for private grants that have no restrictions on legal status.

There's also a lot of uncertainty surrounding the fate of DACA as the Trump administration has previously stressed that they would work to rescind the program (which may result in deportation of people like me).

My advisers said that applying for lecturer positions should not pose a problem, but I'm concerned about my chances to apply for professor positions when I am not able to secure any federal grants issued by the government, in addition to the fact that my stay in the US is not 100% guaranteed in the long run. I love teaching but would also like to continue doing research as well, in a university setting...

Any insights on the matter, especially by those that have worked in hiring committees, would be much appreciated!

  • 8
    There are many legal aspects to this question that this list is not the right place to answer. But, that being said, do remember that there are universities in other parts of the world...
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 16, 2017 at 23:15
  • 3
    @JonCuster - I've flagged your comment. I wouldn't think that you meant it to come across badly, but to my ear, it did. As the child of a WWII immigrant (who almost didn't get naturalized due to the McCarthy era witchhunting), to me, "do remember that there are universities in other parts of the world" sounds uncomfortably like "You are welcome to leave the country," which is not nice, and not necessary. Apr 1, 2018 at 21:34
  • 8
    @aparente001 I took it as more of a "you can have a great academic career outside of the US, so you don't have to pin all of your hopes on the one country. Which the subtext makes it seem like you're doing." Apr 1, 2018 at 21:52
  • @zibadawatimmy - I would not flag what you wrote. Nicely put. Apr 1, 2018 at 21:58
  • 1
    Are DACA faculty really ineligible to be PIs on (say) NSF proposals? Formally, to first approximation, American faculty do not apply for or receive federal research grants. Faculty write the proposals, but universities formally submit them. Faculty are responsible for managing the money, but the money formally belongs to the university. So it’s not at all clear whether being the PI of an NSF grant counts as “receiving federal funding”.
    – JeffE
    Aug 20, 2018 at 12:02

2 Answers 2


Setting aside all of the questions around DACA, let's focus on the question of how necessary federal grants are to obtaining (and keeping) a position as a professor.

Professorships at research-intensive universities are indeed generally strongly dependent on the perceived ability to bring in funding. Among other things, without funding it is difficult to support graduate students. Without graduate students, one's research typically progresses much more slowly (excepting perhaps in certain theoretical areas). Moreover, at some universities successful graduation of Ph.D. students is part of making tenure. You may be able to do this with private, state, or international funds, of course, in which case you would want to try to demonstrate why this plan is feasible to a hiring committee.

Professorships at teaching-focused universities, on the other hand, are typically much less tightly linked to the ability to get federal funding. While you may face other obstacles there, your primary job would in any case be teaching rather than research, and small amounts of funding from non-federal sources may be much more plausible as an approach.

  • 1
    Actually, there are many tenure track positions, depending on field, in which there is no expectation whatever of external funding. True, these are teaching colleges and universities where some research is required, but much of that doesn't require funding. Such schools don't tend to have doctoral programs and so the need to fund students isn't essential as it is some other places. Also in some fields, research requires a library and the internet, but not a laboratory.
    – Buffy
    Aug 20, 2018 at 11:28
  • 1
    @Buffy I believe that's entirely consistent with my statement about teaching-focused institutions.
    – jakebeal
    Aug 20, 2018 at 15:35

As the OP is interested in applying for professorship, I would assume (s)he has many papers with many citations.

If so, perhaps it is better to get rid of this DACA status first. As I understand, all one needs to do is to leave the US, then re-enter legally with a different status.

This sounds crazy for normal people, but it is not difficult for postdoc positions (which of course, much less competitive than professorship). So, instead of apply professorship directly, how about doing a postdoc 3 - 6 month in EU first?

You can also self-petition your green card while on J-1 visa, either EB1 or EB2-NIW. According to this data, 60 citations is the median to obtain EB2-NIW.

I had my green card after 2 years living in the US. I applied for EB1, my citations were around 150 at that time.

Note that, since J-1 is not dual intention, it is better to change to O-1 before applying for green card to avoid the risk if the application fails.

  • I think that advising a person to leave and re-enter is a rather risky gamble in the current US political environment, and would not advise it unless the person would be comfortable staying in the other country in case something goes wrong with their attempt to re-enter.
    – jakebeal
    Aug 27, 2018 at 15:51
  • @jakebeal: Suppose there are two person A and B, who are offered postdoc with J-1 visas: A had been in the US under DACA, and B has never been to the US. Is it more difficult for A to get the Visa than B? If it is not, it is better to get rid of DACA status, and have a chance to become permanent resident and citizen. As DACA is a curse that will haunt someone for the rest of his/her life, not only funding.
    – sean
    Aug 27, 2018 at 16:29
  • The choice is not "Get rid of DACA status" vs "Do not get rid of DACA status" the choice is "Attempt to pursue career with DACA status" vs. "Attempt to remove DACA status, with the possibility of being barred from the country long-term." There are, unfortunately, no good choices for people in this position at present.
    – jakebeal
    Aug 27, 2018 at 16:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .