The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has a complicated history, and its future is uncertain. Right now, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is accepting both initial DACA applications and renewals, but the agency is only processing renewals. Up until recently, DACA recipients had to renew their status by mail. USCIS now allows DACA recipients to file their renewal applications online.
Written by ImmigrationHelp Team.
Written December 13, 2022
What Is DACA?
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was established by President Barack Obama in 2012 to provide deportation relief and work opportunities to young people who entered the U.S. unlawfully before the age of 16. DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, must meet certain criteria, including being younger than 39 on June 15, 2020, and having no convictions for felonies or serious misdemeanors.
The Trump administration put significant effort and resources into ending DACA but was largely unsuccessful. In fact, after the administration’s announcement that new DACA applications would not be accepted, a federal judge ruled that first-time applications were allowed and extended the one-year renewal period to two years.
Despite this good news, the future of DACA remains uncertain. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to accept DACA renewal requestsand new applications but is currently only processing renewals. Readers can find the latest information about DACA on our DACA News page.
How Do I File for DACA?
How you file for DACA benefits will depend largely on whether you are filing an initial DACA request or filing a DACA renewal request. Although renewals can now be filed online, first-time applicants must mail in their applications. The purpose of this article is to focus on renewals and the advantages and disadvantages of renewing online versus by mail.
How Can I File a DACA Renewal Online?
To digitize its processes, USCIS now allows current DACA recipients to file their two-year renewals online. First-time applicants, however, must still apply by mail.
According to USCIS, DACA recipients should submit their renewal request between 120 and 150 days before their DACA expiration date. Renewal applicants must complete and submit three USCIS forms with the $495 renewal fee. These are the same forms you filled out for your original DACA application, including:
Form I-821D: Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This is the main application form.
Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization. This is the application for a work authorization, better known as a work permit.
Form I-765ws: This worksheet accompanies Form I-765.
You can submit your DACA renewal forms and filing fees by mail or online by creating a USCIS online account. If you file by mail, make sure you send your application to the correct mailing address. USCIS will then mail you a receipt notice, no matter how you filed. You will obtain this receipt notice more quickly if you file online.
To learn more about each of these forms and see the renewal process step by step, check out our DACA Renewal Guide.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Filing My DACA Renewal Online?
In most cases, renewing your DACA status online is faster and easier than filing by mail. There are some exceptions, however. Read on for the pros and cons of filing your DACA renewal online.
Here are some of the major benefits of applying for your DACA renewal online:
Online filing is free, and you don’t have to pay for legal advice if you complete and submit the forms on your own. You still have to pay the $495 DACA renewal fee, but that’s the case for all applicants, regardless of how they submit their case.
USCIS provides a secure inbox/messaging system that allows you to communicate with the agency securely and easily. You can get answers to your questions and check on the status of your application without having to spend hours on the phone.
You don’t have to deal with the delays of the U.S. mail system, mailing costs, or the fear of missing last-minute deadlines. And if USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE) for more supporting documents or additional information, you can quickly and easily respond by uploading documents to your USCIS.gov account instead of sending them through the mail.
If you need to update personal information, it is quick and simple to log in and make changes.
Here are some of the major negative aspects of applying for your DACA renewal online:
Although USCIS’s online system makes the renewal process quicker, it is still a complex process. You should be confident in your ability to read and understand USCIS’ technical instructions.
If you aren’t familiar with USCIS language and processes, navigating the online system without help may be a challenge. This is especially true for applicants who receive a Request for Evidence. Beyond a basic FAQ about these requests and some filing tips, USCIS doesn’t provide individualized support for this when using its online system.
You must be somewhat computer savvy, as you will need to convert physical documents, such as the I-765ws, into electronic form. USCIS’ online system does not function well on smartphones.
Finally, USCIS is notorious for its slow response times and impersonal replies, even when using its online system.
It’s also important to note that if you are filing online, you will need to submit payment electronically. This means you will need a credit card, debit card, prepaid card, or linked bank account. Money orders and other nonelectronic forms of payment cannot be used for online renewals.