Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows eligible immigrant youth to get 2-year renewable work permits and protection from removal proceedings. DACA has faced many legal challenges over the past five years. First, the Trump Administration tried to end the program and a U.S. Supreme Court decision prevented them from doing that. Still, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was only accepting and processing renewal applications. Shortly after, President Biden signed an Executive Order to reinstate the program fully - allowing both new applications and renewals.
Most recently, a judge ruled in favor of a group of Texas Attorney Generals, who argued that DACA is unconstitutional. As a result, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is accepting but no longer processing new DACA applications. Happily, though, immigrants who have received DACA in the past are still eligible to renew their status. Renewing your DACA status and work permit costs $495 and takes 6-12 months. This guide explains everything you need to know about renewing your DACA status. ImmigrationHelp.org can help you prepare your DACA renewal application for free.
Can I renew my DACA status?
You are eligible to renew your Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) grant and employment authorization if all of the following are true:
- You have DACA or have had it in the past. People who have never applied for DACA cannot apply now.
- Your DACA expiration date wasn't more than one year ago. If your DACA expired more than one year ago, you will have to submit a new DACA application.
- Your current DACA expiration date isn't more than one year from now.
- You didn’t leave the United States since your initial application for DACA without getting Advance Parole.
- You have lived in the United States continuously since your most recent approved DACA application.
- You have never been charged with a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or several smaller misdemeanors.
How to renew your DACA and Work Permit (A step-by-step guide)
Once you confirm that you qualify to renew your Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) grant, you can begin working on the renewal process. ImmigrationHelp.org will walk you through each step of the process for free if you are eligible for our service. You’ll need your old DACA paperwork, the most current versions of the DACA forms, passport pictures, and the government fees to file your DACA renewal.
Step 1 - Find your most recent renewal paperwork
You will use it as a guide to complete your new DACA renewal forms. You can cross-reference your old and new paperwork to make sure that the information is consistent. If you are using the ImmigrationHelp.org app, you can easily answer the questions using the information from your previous DACA renewal. If this is your first time renewing your status, you can also use your paperwork from your first DACA application.
Step 2 - Get the forms you’ll need
If you use the free ImmigrationHelp.org app to prepare your paperwork, we will provide you with the forms you need. If you decide to go it alone, you should download the most current DACA and work permit forms directly from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)’s website. USCIS may reject your application if you use wrong or outdated forms. A completed DACA renewal application needs to include these forms:
- Form I-821D
- Form I-765
- Form I-765WS
Step 3 - Fill out the forms
If you use our free DACA renewal app to prepare your paperwork, we will help you make sure that your Forms I-821D, I-765, and I-765WS are good to go. If you complete the forms without our help, make sure that you read the instructions carefully. You should check your responses against your previous renewal filing to make sure that the information is consistent. It is a good idea to fill out the forms on a computer, phone, or tablet so that your answers are easy to read. If you fill the forms out by hand, make sure that you write legibly with a black pen.
Step 4 - Write a cover letter
A cover letter tells USCIS who you are, what you are applying for, and what items you have included in your application packet. This helps the USCIS officer easily see what they are about to review and avoid overlooking anything.
Step 5 - Get your passport photo taken
You will need to include two passport photos taken within 30 days of the day you file your Form I-765. Many pharmacies, post offices, and Fedex and UPS stores will take passport photos for a small fee.
Step 6 - Pay the filing fees
USCIS does not accept cash, so you will need to pay the $495 filing fee with a money order or by credit card. You can get a money order from most banks and post offices as well as from many grocery stores. The money order should be for exactly $495 and made out to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” Do not use abbreviations like “DHS.” If you do, USCIS will not receive your payment, and will send your application back to you. If you choose to pay by credit card, you will need to include a completed Form G-1450 with your application paperwork.
Step 7 - Make a copy of everything
This includes your money order and all supporting documents, as well as any receipt for mailing your paperwork. Keep these copies in a safe place in case you need to refer to them in the future.
Step 8 - Assemble your renewal packet
We recommend that you assemble your packet in the following order to make it easier for USCIS to review:
- Money Order or Form G-1450
- Cover letter
- Form G-1145 (if you choose to submit it)
- Form I-821D
- Form I-765
- Passport photos
- A copy of the front and back of your current employment authorization document
- Form I-765WS
- Copies of any supporting documents
Do not staple the items in your packet together. Staples make it harder for USCIS to review everything. Use paper clips instead.
Step 9 - Mail your renewal packet to USCIS
After reviewing and double-checking your DACA renewal application packet, you are ready to send it to USCIS! USCIS has a quick reference guide that will show you where to send your renewal request based on your location. Use a mail service that includes a tracking number. The USPS’ Priority Mail flat-rate envelopes are a great option.
If you have been arrested since your last approved DACA renewal, you should speak with an attorney before you submit your renewal packet. You can find free or low-priced legal service providers at the USA.gov website.
Step 10 - Attend your biometrics appointment
After you submit your DACA renewal, you will need to attend a biometrics appointment (photo and fingerprinting). USCIS will usually schedule your biometrics appointment for 6-8 weeks after you submit your paperwork. The purpose of this appointment is to ensure you do not have a serious criminal record or any relevant prior immigration violations.
Step 11 - Receive your new DACA and Employment Authorization Card
You should receive your DACA approval notice and work authorization card 6 to 12 months after you send in your completed renewal packet!
What is the DACA renewal timeline?
A typical Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal takes 6-12 months. During that time, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will send a variety of notices about your application to the mailing address that you provided on your paperwork. Most people who apply to renew their DACA and employment authorization receive the following notices in order.
Receipt Notice (2-3 weeks after you file)
You will receive a notice that USCIS has received your filing 2-3 weeks after you mail it to USCIS. This notice will contain a unique code called a “Receipt Number” that consists of 3 letters and 10 numbers, such as ABC1234567891. You can use this code to track the status of your application here.
Biometrics Appointment Notice (4-6 weeks after you file)
As part of the DACA process, you will need to attend a biometrics (photo and fingerprinting) appointment. USCIS will schedule this appointment and send you notice of the date, time, and location 4-6 weeks after you file your application. The appointment will usually occur 6-8 weeks after you file.
DACA Approval Notice (5-10 months after you file)
If all goes well, USCIS will approve your Form I-821D and send you an approval letter 5-10 months after you file your application.
Employment Authorization Card (6-12 months after you file)
After USCIS approves your Form I-821D, they will process your FormI-765 within about 90 days. You should receive your new employment authorization card 6-12 months after you file your application. Contact USCIS if you haven't received any notices 105 days after filing your application. You should also bear in mind that the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has lengthened processing times for immigration applications in general.
When should I renew my DACA?
Your renewed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status and employment authorization will expire two years after USCIS approves your renewal request. This means that you may lose a bit of time on your new status if you apply more than 120 days before your current DACA expires. It takes a long time for USCIS to process DACA renewal requests, and the future of DACA is uncertain. So, many people are submitting their renewals earlier than usual. You should submit your renewal application when you feel comfortable doing so.
How much does it cost to renew DACA?
When you submit your Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal package, you will have to pay two fees for a total of $495:
- $410 for your employment authorization
- $85 for your biometrics (photo and fingerprinting)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses these fees to process your renewal application. Without these fees, USCIS will return your application documents to you without processing them.
How can I get help paying for my DACA renewal?
Many Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients have a hard time affording their DACA grant renewal. Every DACA renewal applicant needs to pay USCIS fees, and if you get a lawyer’s assistance with your case, you’ll have to pay them in addition. Here are some tips for how to raise the money for both lawyer fees and USCIS fees.
Getting help with lawyer fees
If you don’t have a criminal record, you can prepare your renewal forms yourself. DACA renewal is expensive enough without having to pay an attorney to help you. So we at ImmigrationHelp.org worked with immigration attorneys to build an app that will help you prepare your DACA paperwork for free. This app will produce all the required paperwork. You will only need to pay the USCIS filing fees and not the $500+ that lawyers often charge. We’ll even review your forms and supporting documents for you, for free, when you’ve completed the app!
Getting help with USCIS fees
You can ask people in your circle and in organizations you’re a member of for help with paying your USCIS fees. Consider doing any of the following:
- Start a personal fundraising page on GoFundMe. They have resources to help DACA recipients crowd-fund for renewal fees.
- Send letters and emails to select friends or family members asking for help. You can use this template as a starting point.
- Instead of gifts for your birthday, ask for money to help you pay for your DACA renewal.
- Ask your employer to pay your renewal fee. Helping you keep your status helps them keep you as an employee. Hiring a new employee to replace you if you lose status will likely cost them much more than the $495 it would cost them to help you renew.
- If you are a member of a church or other faith group, reach out to them. They may be willing to help you!
- Many colleges have programs to help Dreamers. If you are a college or university student, contact your financial aid office to ask if they can help you.
- Apply for the Voto Latino pro bono “UndocuNeighbor” initiative.
- Apply for the United We Dream DACA renewal fund.
DACA renewal can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your DACA renewal case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!