Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Humanitarian Visas

Summary

DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” Deferred action is an immigration status under U.S. administrative law that can delay a person’s deportation. So, DACA delays the deportation of individuals whose parents brought them to the country as children.

What Is DACA?

DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” Deferred action is an immigration status under U.S. administrative law that can delay a person’s deportation. So, DACA delays the deportation of individuals whose parents brought them to the country as children.

DACA protects you from deportation due to factors that you had no control over when you entered the country as a child. This policy also allows you to apply for a work permit that would normally be inaccessible to undocumented individuals.

How Do I Qualify for DACA?

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the DACA program effective in the meantime, and with the Biden administration renewing the DACA policy as it was during the Obama administration, major eligibility requirements may remain the same as they were during the time of implementation.

Here are the main requirements to qualify for the DACA policy:

  • Age Eligibility Requirement: You should have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.
  • Age Upon Entering the U.S.: You should have entered the U.S. before turning 16-years-old.
  • Residential Eligibility Requirement: You should have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
  • Physical Presence Eligibility Requirement: You should have been physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012.
  • Legal Eligibility Status: You should not have had lawful immigration status as of June 15, 2012.
  • Educational Completion or Related Experience Eligibility Requirement: You should meet any of the following requirements:
    • Currently in school in the U.S.
    • Graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school
    • Obtained a general education development (GED) certificate
    • Honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the U.S.
  • Good Behavior Eligibility Requirement: You should not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors. Officials must also not deem you as a threat to national security or public safety.

Note that the current administration may change the eligibility requirements. Still, it is safe to have proof that you meet original major DACA eligibility requirements to get a head start.

How Do I Get a Work Permit Through DACA?

The USCIS requires you to prove financial hardship before they grant you work authorization. The DACA’s work authorization benefit allows you to work anywhere in the U.S. despite having no lawful status. The idea behind this benefit is to allow productive young undocumented immigrants the chance to contribute to the country’s society through working.

If you qualify for a DACA work permit, you also may get a valid social security number and a driver’s license. With a social security number as an undocumented immigrant, you may pursue higher education that would require a social security number to apply and enroll.

The cost of higher education has also been a factor in stopping undocumented immigrants from pursuing college or getting advanced degrees. With the green light to work through DACA’s work authorization, advanced education becomes more accessible.

As a DACA recipient, you would join the ranks of the country’s essential workforce. Statistics show that most DACA recipients contribute at least $2.5 million in U.S. taxes. These people work in essential fields like the health care and education industries.

Workers in the education sector are especially significant because they are helping fill the shortage of qualified teachers with the proper credentials. Meanwhile, essential workers in the health care sector have been helping fight in the front lines of the battle against the global COVID-19 pandemic.

How Do I Apply for DACA?

Applying for DACA involves completing and signing necessary forms and gathering all the documents that will support your qualifications for DACA.

Here are the required forms and worksheets you must complete, sign, and pay appropriate fees for:

  1. Form I-821D: Consideration of DACA costs $495 in filing fees. This is the main form you must submit to be considered for DACA. You must use USCIS’s most recent version of this form to avoid rejection.
  2. Form I-765: The Employment Authorization application costs $410 in filing fees. You must also pay $85 in biometric services fees. This form is the Work Authorization Document for legal employment in the U.S.
  3. Form I-765WS Worksheet: This is a supplementary document where you detail your current financial situation to qualify for work authorization.

Note that you cannot waive any of the fees you pay during the DACA application process.

Consider the following tips for completing your forms, as well:

  • Visit the official USCIS website for all the latest forms. All forms are free to download. The USCIS will reject older I-821D forms.
  • Consistently write your name, birth date, and mailing address the same way throughout each form you fill out.
  • You may fill out the forms electronically and then print the completed forms to mail them.
  • You must fill out the form using black ink only. USCIS will scan handwritten forms, and the machines may not read or detect red ink or colored highlighters.
  • Avoid making changes to your forms. If you must, fill out a new form instead of using a liquid eraser to avoid scanning errors.
  • Be sure to sign all of your forms.
  • Prepare all supporting documents and evidence when you submit your forms.

Here is a table listing the sample documents you can present as proof that you meet DACA guidelines (this list is based on official USCIS examples):

Proof of identity
  • Passport
  • Any national identity document from your home country
  • Birth or adoption certificate with photo identification
  • School ID with photo
  • Military ID with photo
  • Any U.S. government immigration or related document with your name and photo
Proof that you came to the U.S. before your 16th birthday
  • Passport with admission stamp
  • Arrival/Departure forms (Form I-94 or Form I-94W)
  • Crewman’s Landing Permit (Form I-95)
  • School records from the U.S. schools you have attended
  • DHS Notice to Appear Form I-862 or any Immigration and Naturalization Service document stating your date of entry
  • Travel records with dates
  • Hospital or medical records with dates
  • Employment records (pay stubs, W-2 Forms, etc.)
  • Official records from a religious entity that confirm your participation in a religious event or ceremony
  • Copies of money order receipts for money sent in or out of the U.S.
  • Birth certificates of children born in the U.S.
  • Bank transactions with dates
  • Automobile license registration and receipts
  • Deeds, mortgages, and rental agreement contracts
  • Insurance policies
  • Tax receipts
Proof of immigration status
  • Arrival/Departure Forms (Form I-94 or Form I-94W with an authorized stay expiration date)
  • Crewman’s Landing Permit (Form I-95 with an authorized stay expiration date)
  • The final order of removal, exclusion, or deportation issued as of June 15, 2012
  • A charging document placing you into removal proceedings
Proof of presence in the U.S. on June 15, 2012
  • Rent receipts
  • Utility bills
  • Employment records (pay stubs, W-2 Forms, etc.)
  • U.S. school records (letters, report cards, etc.)
  • Military records (Form DD-214, proof of honorable discharge from the military; or NGB Form 22, National Guard Report of Separation and Record of Service)
  • Official records from a religious entity that confirm your participation in a religious event or ceremony
  • Copies of money order receipts for money sent in or out of the U.S.
  • Passport entries
  • Birth certificates of children born in the U.S.
  • Bank transactions with dates
  • Automobile license registration and receipts
  • Deeds, mortgages, and rental agreement contracts
  • Insurance policies
  • Tax receipts
Proof you continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007
Proof of your student status at the time of requesting DACA
  • Official school records including a transcript of records and report cards from the U.S. school you are currently enrolled in and attending.
  • U.S. school high school diploma or certificate of completion
  • U.S. GED certificate
Proof you are an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard or Armed Forces
  • Military personnel records
  • Military health records
  • Form DD-214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty)
  • NGB Form 22 (National Guard Report of Separation and Record of Service)

 

USCIS may require you to submit a criminal history when applying for DACA. If you have been arrested but not convicted of a crime, you will have to explain your case during a biometrics interview when applying for DACA.

Having sufficient evidence is always good for maximizing your chances of approval. Be sure to have at least two of the required documents for each DACA qualification to ensure that you get approved.

When you have all your evidential requirements ready along with your documents, you are ready to file your DACA application.

Here are some reminders when filing your DACA forms:

  • The USCIS will reject any DACA request if you do not submit the three main forms with their correct fees.
  • Organize your supporting documentation and evidence. Consider labeling each document according to the DACA guideline that it fulfills.
  • Check all pages before mailing. USCIS will reject requests with missing pages.
  • You cannot file your DACA request electronically.
  • You may call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 for inquiries. The USCIS discourages visiting a USCIS field office for safety reasons.

Be sure to mail your forms to the correct USCIS Lockbox. Here is a table of the official USCIS DACA direct filing addresses for guidance:

State You Live In For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) For FedEx, UPS, and DHL Deliveries
Arizona

California

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox Facility

USCIS

P.O. Box 20700

Phoenix, AZ 85036-0700

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox Facility

USCIS

Attn: DACA

1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S

Suite 100

Phoenix, AZ 85034

Alaska

Alabama

Arkansas

Florida

Guam

Hawaii

Idaho

Iowa

Kansas

Louisiana

Minnesota

Missouri

Mississippi

Montana

North Dakota

Nebraska

New Mexico

Oklahoma

Puerto Rico

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

U.S. Virgin Islands

Wyoming

USCIS Dallas Lockbox Facility

USCIS

P.O. Box 660045

Dallas, TX 75266-0045

USCIS Dallas Lockbox Facility

USCIS

ATTN: DACA

2501 S. State Hwy.121, Business

Suite 400

Lewisville, TX 75067

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

District of Columbia

Georgia

Illinois

Indiana

Kentucky

Massachusetts

Maryland

Maine

Michigan

Nevada

North Carolina

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York

Ohio

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

Virginia

Vermont

Washington

Wisconsin

West Virginia

USCIS Chicago Lockbox Facility

USCIS

P.O. Box 5757

Chicago, IL 60680-5757

USCIS Chicago Lockbox Facility

USCIS

Attn: DACA

131 S. Dearborn – 3rd Floor

Chicago, IL 60603-5517

How Do I Renew My DACA?

The USCIS says they will process DACA renewal requests within 120 days, though that is not a guarantee. You must fill out, sign, and submit the following forms again:

  1. Form I-821D: Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This form is to request officials to review your case. Be sure to use the most recent version of this form on the official USCIS website to avoid rejection.
  2. Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization. This form is necessary for your work authorization.
  3. Form I-765WS Worksheet: This is a supplementary document where you detail your current financial situation to qualify for work authorization.

DACA renewal requires the following qualifications:

  • You must satisfy the initial 2012 DACA guidelines.
  • You must have not left the U.S. on or after August 15, 2012 without advance parole.
  • You must have continuously lived in the country since your most recently approved DACA request.
  • You must have maintained good behavior, as in you should not have been convicted of a felony, major misdemeanor, three or more misdemeanors, and you do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

You may still submit a DACA renewal request even if your most recent DACA period has expired, granted that it is within a year of its expiration. After a year of your most recent DACA period’s expiry, you must submit a new DACA request.

DACA History

Obama Administration

Former President Barack Obama announced this immigration policy on June 15, 2012, through an executive order. By August 15, 2012, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications for the DACA program. This policy granted young undocumented immigrants the ability to work legally as well as temporary safety from deportation.

The original DACA program was available to undocumented immigrants who were younger than 31 years old by June 15, 2012. These individuals must also have arrived in the U.S. before they were 16 years old and have lived in the country since 2007.

Even the original DACA program protected young undocumented immigrants from deportation. It granted these immigrants eligibility for work permits in the U.S., which was valid for two years, and renewable based on good behavior.

Former President Obama also clarified that the DACA program was a “temporary stopgap measure.” He said that this policy was not supposed to be a path to full-fledged citizenship. Instead, DACA was a way to provide undocumented immigrants with some degree of relief from threats of deportation.

Trump Administration

The former Trump administration tried to cancel the DACA program starting in September 2017. It failed to phase out the entire program after several courts labeled its attempt as a violation of federal law.

However, it still managed to stop accepting new DACA applications, leaving around 800,000 undocumented individuals in limbo. These people were living in uncertainty and fear of getting deported and had no right to apply for a work permit, driver’s license, or social security number.

The Trump administration’s efforts also reduced the renewability time frame to 120 days from the original 150 days. It also made DACA available only for one year instead of two. Former President Donald Trump argued that DACA was illegal and unconstitutional.

Chad Wolf was one of the main lobbyists under the Trump administration who challenged DACA’s legality. He signed memos with rules that limited DACA applications in July 2020.

By November, Judge Nicholas Garaufis invalidated Wolf’s rules after learning that Wolf was illegally serving as the US Department of Homeland Security secretary. Lower courts also sided with immigrant advocates who fought against the government’s efforts to end the policy that many undocumented individuals have relied upon so far to avoid deportation.

By December 2020, Judge Garaufis ruled that the Trump administration must continue accepting DACA program applications the way the previous administration handled the policy. Later on, US President Joseph Biden Jr. reinstated DACA on January 20, 2021, by signing an executive order.

Biden Administration

President Biden has previously vowed that he would prioritize giving undocumented immigrants a path to full U.S. citizenship during his presidential campaign. He also cited access to federal student loans and debt-free community college as some of the benefits that immigrants may look forward to in his efforts to prevent deportation from separating U.S. families.

Next Steps

The DACA program has essentially undergone a full restoration. Recent Supreme Court rulings have stated that this policy must be implemented the same way as it was during 2012. Thus, eligible undocumented immigrants may apply to receive DACA program benefits, including delayed deportation status and work permit authority. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about successfully making it through this process, feel free to reach out to us for help.

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