7/21/21 - The U.S. government is accepting all DACA requests, but only granting renewal requests. You can still submit a new DACA application to hold your place in line.
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What is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)? A Complete Guide.

July 2, 2021
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Summary

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program started by the Obama administration that provides relief from deportation for several undocumented immigrant youth living in the United States. Under the program, eligible people can get social security cards and official work permits that they can renew every two years. ImmigrationHelp.org is a non-profit that helps eligible DACA applicants to get their initial and renewal application paperwork together for free. This article explains all you need to know about the DACA program, including its history and purpose, who can apply for it, and how to apply if it's your first time or if you're renewing your status.

Overview

What is DACA and its purpose?

President Barack Obama began Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012 under an executive order. DACA protects over 700,000 young people, also known as “Dreamers,” from deportation. Dreamers are those who entered the United States as children without lawful status. The program doesn’t give Dreamers legal status. But, DACA recipients can apply for work authorization. They can use work permits as official identification for many things. For example, they’ll need identification to obtain driver’s licenses.

The DACA program is not a path to citizenship. But, there are ongoing efforts for paths to permanent residency for Dreamers in U.S. immigration law. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) is an unpassed proposal in Congress. The DREAM Act proposes to grant Dreamers temporary residency and the right to work. The DREAM Act also strives to help Dreamers become U.S. citizens. 

The DACA program has also experienced challenges to its validity. In 2017, the Trump administration tried to end DACA for first-time applicants. The Supreme Court overturned President Trump’s termination of DACA. But, people could only submit renewal applications until President Biden’s term began. After Biden’s election, a U.S. district court decision ruled to allow new applications as of December 4, 2020. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) now accepts new DACA applications

But, a group of attorney generals in Texas has filed a court case, arguing that Obama did not launch DACA legally. The judge hasn’t ruled on the case yet. But, the ruling could have a significant impact on whether the DACA program survives. For now, eligible Dreamers are welcome to submit first-time and renewal DACA applications.

Who qualifies for DACA?

You are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) if:

  • You entered the U.S. unlawfully before you were 16 years old.
  • You have continuously lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
  • You were in the U.S. on June 15, 2012.
  • You had no legal immigration status on June 15, 2012.
  • You were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012.
  • You are in the U.S. when you request DACA.
  • You have no felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanor offenses.
  • You are an honorably discharged veteran of the Armed Forces or Coast Guard.
  • You graduated from high school, are currently in school, or you have a General Educational Development (GED) certificate.

You can check your DACA eligibility with our free Screener.

How to apply for DACA

If you’re eligible, you can begin your DACA application. You’ll need to sign and submit three forms for your new or renewal application:

You’ll also have to submit several supporting documents with your forms. You’ll have to mail these forms and your documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency that handles DACA requests. When you mail the forms, you should also submit the required $495 filing fee. This fee covers your form filing fees and your biometrics fee. USCIS will then schedule your biometrics appointment. Your application will be complete once your biometrics appointment is over.

To learn more about the process, check out our article on applying for DACA.

How to renew your DACA status

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status is valid for two years, after which you must apply to renew it. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends renewing your status 120-150 days before its expiration date. You can renew your DACA status if:

  • You didn’t leave the U.S. on or after August 15, 2012, without completing Form I-131. Form I-131 is also known as the “Application for Travel Document.” You should complete this form if you need an Advance Parole travel document to go abroad.
  • You have continuously lived in the United States since your last DACA approval.
  • You have no felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanor offenses.
  • You do not pose a threat to U.S. public safety or national security.

If you are eligible, you should sign and submit Forms I-821D, I-765, and I-765ws. You’ll have to pay a $495 renewal fee to apply. You’ll also need to submit some supporting documents. For more information, see our checklist on which documents you should include.

To learn more about DACA renewals, read our guide to DACA renewal requests.

Conclusion

Applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) 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 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!

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