The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program protects eligible undocumented young people in the U.S. from deportation, but it does not confer legal status. DACA recipients are eligible to apply for work authorization, or a work permit, so they can legally work in the United States. DACA status is valid for two years. Recipients may reapply every two years to renew their status and work authorization.
The DACA program is being challenged in federal court, so the U.S. government is accepting, but not currently processing, initial DACA applications. This article lists the current case processing times for the two main DACA forms — Form I-821D: Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization Document, as well as the accompanying worksheet Form I-765WS. It also lists the case processing times for the Advance Parole application Form I-130, which many DACA recipients file.
Form I-821D Processing Times
Form I-821D: Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is the main form you must submit to apply for DACA status. This is the same form you will use whether you are submitting a first-time DACA application or applying to renew your DACA status.
Initial DACA Application Processing Time
To apply for initial DACA status, you must submit Form I-821D: Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Two USCIS Service Centers — the California Service Center and the Vermont Service Center — process initial DACA applications.
Here are the current processing times:
Historical Initial DACA Application Processing Times: 2018–2022
Historical USCIS processing times for initial applications have been several months longer than processing times for DACA renewal applications. Between 2018 and 2021*, the average processing time for new DACA applications was 7.4 months.
DACA Renewal Processing Time
If you already have DACA status, you must apply to renew it every two years using Form I-821D. Two USCIS Service Centers — the Nebraska Service Center and the Vermont Service Center — process DACA renewals. Here are the current processing times:
Historical DACA Renewal Application Processing Times: 2018–2022
Historical USCIS processing times for DACA renewal applications have been relatively fast. For the last five years, the average processing time for DACA renewals was 1.1 months.
Form I-765 Processing Times
Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is another form in the DACA application. If USCIS approves your I-765, you get employment authorization — a work permit — which allows you to work legally in the United States. Note that DACA applicants must include the Form I-765 worksheet with their DACA application packet.
Three USCIS offices process the I-765 forms that approved DACA applicants file with Form I-821D when they renew.
Here are the current processing times for each service center:
Historical I-765 Work Authorization Application Processing Times: 2018–2022
Historical USCIS processing times for work permits filed concurrently with Form I-821D have been relatively fast. For the last five years, the average median processing time was 1.2 months. You can find a complete list of historical processing times on the USCIS website.
Form I-131 Processing Times*
If you wish to travel outside of the United States as a DACA recipient, you must file Form I-131: Application for Travel Document. This form isn’t required for the general DACA application, but it allows you to get Advance Parole to travel outside the U.S. and return lawfully.
*Under immigration law, immigrants with many different statuses may apply for Advance Parole if they need to travel internationally. USCIS tracks all Form I-131 data collectively, so the numbers above and below reflect wait times for Form I-131 filed for any reason, not just DACA recipients filing for permission to travel.
Historical Form I-131 Advance Parole Application Processing Times: 2018–2022
In the last five years, the average median USCIS processing time for Form I-131 was 5.5 months according to data from USCIS.gov.
How Long Will My DACA Application Take?
DACA processing times vary widely. USCIS is not currently processing new DACA applications, but it processes DACA renewals in an average of 1.1 months.
Several factors can cause processing delays and affect wait times, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the USCIS backlog, and which service center or field office is processing your application.
If you’re wondering what’s happening with your DACA application, you can check your case status online using the receipt number from your application receipt notice. Our Learning Center contains several articles that can help you understand your case status.
If your application is outside normal processing times, you can contact USCIS to ask for additional information. If you still have questions, our nonprofit can also refer you to an immigration lawyer for a free consultation.
Though the DACA application and renewal process is relatively simple, it’s easy to get confused about what’s happening with DACA as courts and politicians weigh in on the program’s future. You can access our DACA guides and news to get the latest information on the DACA program.