While the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA as it’s more commonly known, has been around for ten years, its future is still very much unknown. The program essentially grants undocumented immigrants who came here as children the ability to receive work authorization and social security cards. In this guide we’ll take a look at the most recent developments with DACA, the requirements and DACA application steps. Due to the growing uncertainty with this program it is highly advised to consult your immigration representative
Since July of 2016, the program has been heavily scrutinized since Texas Judge Andrew Hanen declared DACA unlawful and later the ruling was brought to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for further examination. At this point, it is not clear whether the court will determine the program to be illegal and therefore end the program. Stay tuned for updates on that. For now, the program is allowed to continue renewing recipients but they are not processing new applicants.
IMPORTANT: As of the date of this article, USCIS will accept initial DACA applications but the 2021 ruling blocks USCIS from processing and approving them. First-time DACA filings are not being processed, renewals are still open and advance parole for current DACA recipients is still an option.
It’s important to clearly separate what DACA is and is not. DACA is not a documentation status but a form of deferred action policy from the government which permits immigrants temporary residence in the United States. Estimates suggest that over 800,000 have DACA and as a result have been able to legally work, go to school and evade deportation. “According to the Migration Policy Institute, more than 1.3 million U.S. residents were eligible for DACA as originally implemented.”
DACA Requirements & Eligibility
The Obama administration originally implemented deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as a means to protect undocumented immigrants “dreamers” who arrived as children (prior to turning 16 years old). The policy temporarily protects these individuals from deportation and grants them work authorization with the ability to renew it.
Below are the requirements in order to qualify:
- Under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
- Arrived to the U.S. prior to turning 16 years old
- Lived continuously in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to present
- Were present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and are physically present in the U.S. when you apply for DACA
- Did not have valid documents upon arrival to the U.S. (prior to June 15, 2012); or your status expired as of June 15, 2012
- Not be under any visa, asylum, or refugee status (undocumented)
- Have not been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. Consult with a qualified immigration lawyer if you’ve had any type of run-in with immigration officials or law enforcement prior to applying for DACA.
DACA Recipients CAN
DACA Recipients CANNOT
Receive temporary protection from deportation in two year increments
Receive amnestry or a path to citizenship
Apply for driver's licenses (some states) but these cannot be used for federal benefits like voting
Pay federal income taxes (required)
Receive Social Security, college financial aid or food stamps (among other federal benefits)
First-Time DACA Applicants
Individuals who are filing first-time DACA applications can submit them to USCIS however, they are NOT being currently processed or approved by USCIS. With that being said, you will not receive a response from USCIS after submitting an initial DACA application and you will not be refunded the application fee. Discuss possible alternatives with your immigration lawyer if you are considering filing DACA for the first time.
Pursuant to the July 16, 2021 order from the Southern District of Texas, DHS is prohibited from granting initial DACA requests and accompanying requests for employment authorization. Also consistent with that order, DHS will continue to grant or deny renewal DACA requests, according to existing policy.
DACA Application Process
Be sure to fully complete the forms below per the DACA guidelines. Included in your application should be:
- $495 Fee
- Cover letter
- Form G-1145
- Form I-821D
- Form I-765
- Form I-765WS
- Supporting evidence
Mail the application to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox.
I-765WS Worksheet for Employment
If you would like to apply for employment authorization, complete the I-765 Worksheet along with Form I-765.
USCIS requires you to submit three forms concurrently when initially applying for DACA:
- Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
- I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- Form I-765ws Worksheet
Upon DACA renewal, you will need to submit the Worksheet again. There is no fee for the Worksheet, but you must submit it along with the I-765 and I-821D, which have respective fees.
What documents do I need to submit for my EAD application?
Along with your Form I-765, you should submit:
- a copy of your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
- a copy of a government-issued I.D.
- If applicable, a copy of a previous EAD
- two identical passport photos,
- Form G-28 if you have an accredited lawyer or representative
Benefits of Applying for DACA
- Apply for temporary permission to leave the U.S. (employment, education or emergency reasons)
- Protected from the threat of deportation
- Lawful employment authorization and a Social Security Number
Find out if DACA Recipients Can Get Married.
DACA Renewal Period
As previously mentioned, DACA is valid for increments of two years so after that point you need to renew it.
USCIS recommends that you submit your DACA renewal application 120 to 150 days before the date your current DACA and EAD expire.
To renew you would need:
- A new I-821D form (use the most recent version on the USCIS website or your form will be rejected)
- An I-765 application for employment authorization
- A copy of both sides of your work permit
- two photos that comply with the passport guidelines
- the $495 filing fee for the I-821D
Frequently Asked Questions How To Get DACA
What are the DACA USCIS requirements for age?
What can I use as proof of my identity?
A passport (or national I.D. document from your country), birth certificate with photo, school or military I.D. or government immigration document.
What serves as proof of immigration status?
You can use Form I-94/I-95/I-94 with an authorized stay of expiration date, final order of exclusion, deportation or removal issued as of Jne 15, 2012 or a charging document placing you into removal proceedings.
Does DACA provide legal permanent status?
No, this is not a permanent status. It is temporary and must be renewed every two years.
Do DACA recipients contribute to local revenue?
Yes, they contribute approx. $1.2 billion a year in federal, state and local tax revenue according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Can DACA give you citizenship?
No, it does not create a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
Is my renewal guaranteed to be approved?
DACA lasts two years and there is no guarantee when you renew it.
Is there a fee exemption for DACA?
They are very limited according to USCIS. In order to be considered you need to submit a letter to USCIS demonstrating that you meet one of the conditions below:
- Are under 18 and homeless, in foster care or lacking familial support and your income is less than 150% of the U.S. poverty level
- Are unable to care for yourself due to a chronic disability or serious illness and your income is less than 150% of the U.S. poverty level
- You have $10k or more in medical debt in the past 12 months for yourself or a family member and your income is less than 150% of the U.S. poverty level
To demonstrate one of the above conditions, you can provide evidence including affidavits from community or religious groups, copies of financial documents like tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs showing income level, copies of medical/insurance records, etc.
How will I know if my EAD was approved?
You will know your employment authorization and DACA were approved by a written notice that USCIS sends you by mail of the decision. The EAD card will come separately in the mail.
Can I appeal the decision if my DACA was denied?
Unfortunatly you cannot appeal the decision or file a motion to reconsider.
What if I traveled outside of the U.S?
According to USCIS, “traveling outside the U.S. before Aug. 15, 2012, will not interrupt your continuous residence if the travel was brief, casual, and innocent. If you travel outside the United States on or after Aug. 15, 2012, and before we decide on your request for DACA, you will not be considered for DACA.”
Can I apply too early for my DACA renewal?
There isn’t such thing as filing “too early” for this. If you need assistance with your DACA documents or how to get DACA, feel free to schedule a consultation with our team.
How We Can Help DACA Application
Have questions related to your U.S. DACA application? If you are a DACA recipient or qualify but are searching for a long-term immigration option, the best course of action is to consult a VisaNation Law Group attorney. If your DACA expired and you are facing deportation, do not hesitate to contact us immediately before further action is taken against you.