The U.S. Government is now accepting new DACA applications. We can help you prepare and file for free!
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How to Apply for DACA (2021 Filing Guide)

December 9, 2020
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Summary

As of 12/4/2020, the U.S. Government is once again accepting DACA applications, thanks to a court order from a federal judge in New York. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) is an immigration program that allows Dreamers—undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children—to live and work legally in the United States, free from the constant fear of deportation to unfamiliar countries. Despite a Supreme Court decision on June 18, 2020, ordering the government to reinstate the DACA program, the government has only accepted renewal requests for the past 6 months. Now, USCIS is accepting new DACA applications, following the U.S. district court order.

Overview

What is going on with DACA and the Federal Courts?

The U.S. Supreme Court, on June 18, 2020, rejected the Trump Administration’s attempt to end the DACA program. Yet, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security at that time, Chad Wolf, announced that the Trump Administration would only accept DACA renewal applications. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) refused to accept any new DACA applications.

In November, federal District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that Mr. Wolf became acting secretary illegally. Based on that ruling, Judge Garaufis ordered the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), on December 4, 2020, to start accepting initial DACA applications again. To comply with that court order, DHS announced, on December 9, 2020, that it would start accepting new DACA applications again.

We are very excited that DACA is back, and we want to help you take advantage of it. When you are ready to apply, we can help you prepare your DACA application for free.

How is COVID-19 affecting DACA applications?

Coronavirus Disease 2019, better known as “COVID-19,” has had a big impact on immigration applications, including DACA. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”)—the government agency that processes DACA paperwork—reopened most of their office on June 4, 2020, for the first time since March 18. The long closure affected application processing times, so USCIS will probably take longer than usual to process DACA applications because of the COVID pandemic. Check out the Informed Immigrant guide to stay up to speed on how COVID-19 is affecting DACA renewals.

Now that DHS is accepting new DACA applications, we can help you prepare your application.

Can I Apply For DACA?

You can apply for DACA and a DACA Employment Authorization Document (“EAD” or “work permit”) if you meet the following eligibility rules:

  • You were under the age of 39 on June 15, 2020;
  • You came to the United States before your 16th birthday;
  • You’ve continuously lived in the U.S. from June 15, 2012 until today;
  • You were physically present in the U.S. without lawful status on June 15, 2012;
  • You are physically present in the U.S. when you apply for DACA;
  • Either

           - You are currently in school;
            - You have a high school diploma or GED; or
            - You were honorably discharged from the U.S. military;


If you’re ready to apply for DACA status, we can help!

How much does it cost to apply for DACA?

When you submit your DACA application, you will have to pay two fees for a total of $495:

  • $410 for your employment authorization
  • $85 for your biometrics (photo and fingerprinting)

These fees might change soon. In November of 2019, President Trump proposed a new rule that would increase these fees to $765. USCIS has to allow time for the public to comment on the new rule, so the fee has not increased yet. There is still time to apply with the current fee.

When you’re ready to submit your DACA application, we can help! Let us prepare your paperwork for free with our simple, online app.

When should I apply for DACA?

DACA is a temporary immigration status that expires every two years. Undocumented Dreamers can’t legally work without a work permit, so you should apply as soon as possible. Additionally, you should apply quickly in case the Trump Administration’s proposed fee increase takes effect. USCIS processes most initial requests within 120 days, but COVID-19 has increased that time a good deal.


Your DACA status and employment authorization will expire two years after USCIS approves your application.

Can I get DACA if I’ve previously worked without a work permit?

Yes! Even if you’ve previously worked without a work permit, you can still apply for DACA. Before the government first stopped accepting DACA applications, one of the ways that USCIS suggested you could prove you were in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 (one of the DACA eligibility requirements), was by submitting employment records, such as pay stubs or W-2 tax documents. That same DACA FAQ page on USCIS.gov also stated that your employer could provide information to support your DACA application, and that this information generally would not be shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), the agency in charge of immigration enforcement and removal proceedings.

How can I get help paying for my DACA application?

Many young people eligible for DACA have a hard time affording their DACA application, especially during the COVID-related economic crisis. If that’s you, the ideas below may help.

Prepare the forms yourself

DACA 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 to apply for DACA. You will only need to pay the filing fees and not the $1,000+ that lawyers often charge. We’ll even review your forms for you, for free, when you’ve completed the app!

Ask people for help

  • Start a personal fundraising page on GoFundMe. They have specific resources to help young people crowd-fund for DACA application 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, Christmas, or Chanukah, ask for money to help you pay for your DACA application.

Ask organizations for help

  • Ask your employer to pay your renewal fee. Helping you get DACA status helps them keep you as an employee. Hiring a new employee to replace you will likely cost them much more than the $495 it would cost them to help you apply for DACA so that you can work legally.
  • 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.

Check out these funding options from United We Dream.

DACA Application Checklist

USCIS Forms

To submit a new DACA application and get work authorization, you must file these three forms:

  1. Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
  2. Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  3. Form I-765WS, Worksheet for Form I-765

If you would like to travel outside of the U.S. as a DACA recipient, you must also complete Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, so you can be granted Advance Parole once USCIS approves your DACA request.

If you would like to receive email notifications about your DACA application, you should complete Form G-1145 as well.

If you want to pay your filing fees with a credit card, you must submit Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions with your application.

You can find the latest version of all forms at USCIS.gov

Supporting Documents

In addition to the forms above, you must also submit two recent passport photos with your application and pay the filing and biometrics fees. (Most drugstores with photo services will provide passport photos). The total fee for a DACA application is $495. The full charge includes the $410 work authorization fee for the Form I-765 and an $85 biometrics fee. You can pay the fees either with a credit card or by check or money order. Make your check or money orders payable to the order of “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” 

Some applicants qualify for a fee waiver that allows them to avoid paying these fees. We can help you see if you qualify for a fee waiver when you use our free web application to prepare your DACA paperwork.

The checklist below contains all the required documents you must submit with your Form I-821D, Form I-765, Form I-765WS, filing fees, and passport photos for a new DACA application. You must submit the following:

  • Proof of your identity
  • Proof you came to the United States before your 16th birthday
  • Proof of expired immigration status (if applicable)
  • Proof that you have been living in U.S. since June 15, 2007 and were in the U.S. on June 15, 2012
  • Proof that you are currently a student (if applicable)
  • Proof that you are a U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces veteran who was honorably discharged (if applicable)

For more information about the documents you will need, check our article on DACA Supporting Documents.

When you’re ready to apply for DACA, organize your forms, filing fees, passport photos, and supporting documents into a filing packet. You will be mailing this packet to a USCIS lockbox or service center, so make sure that it is neat and complete. We recommend you include a cover letter with your filing packet that lists the forms and documents included in your application. A cover letter will make it easier for USCIS to review your application. You are welcome to use this sample DACA application cover letter as a template.

You should also make copies of everything in your application packet (including your check or money order) for your records. You should not submit original documents for anything other than passport photos to USCIS - you may not get them back. Instead, submit copies of these documents with your application packet.

We can help you prepare the required forms and supporting documents for your DACA application for free.

What is the DACA application timeline?

A typical DACA application takes 6-12 months. During that time, USCIS will send several notices about your application to the mailing address that you provided on your paperwork. Most people who apply for 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 application 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. For example, “ABC1234567891. You can use this code to track the status of your application online.

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 (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 I-821D, they will process your I-765 within about 90 days. You should receive your employment authorization card 6-12 months after you file your application.

If you haven’t received any notices 105 days after filing your application, contact the USCIS Contact Center.

What if I need help applying for DACA?

We built an app to help you prepare your DACA paperwork for free. If you use it, you will get all the required paperwork completed and ready to submit. We’ll even review your forms for you—for free—when you’ve completed the app!

If you need help after you’ve submitted your forms, reach out to legal aid or a local non-profit organization. Many of them provide free and low-cost legal services.

Best of luck with your DACA renewal - we’re rooting for you!

Conclusion

Applying for 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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