Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — also known as DACA — is a program that allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States without immigration status as children ("Dreamers") to get lawful status and work authorization. In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Trump Administration’s attempt to end DACA. In 2018, the United Nations urged the U.S. to save the DACA program and protect Dreamers. DACA lets Dreamers live and work without the constant fear of deportation. Unfortunately, DACA does not provide a pathway to citizenship by naturalization, the process by which immigrants can become U.S. citizens. DACA recipients also are not eligible to become lawful permanent residents under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Every year, on average, 351,072 people apply to renew their DACA status and work authorization. Of these, from 2015 to 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) approved about 78% and denied or rejected about 7%, while about 14% remained pending. The denial rate remained relatively stable during those four years, ranging from 5.6% to 9.2%. Meanwhile, the total time that it takes to renew DACA and its work authorization has decreased from 4.3 months in 2016 to 1.4 months in 2020. USCIS usually processes applications within 120 days, although processing times have gotten slower because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Written February 16, 2022
How many DACA recipients are there in the United States?
The Migration Policy Institute reports that, as of September 2019, there are 652,880 DACA recipients in the United States.
DACA recipients make up about 1.5% of the foreign-born population, based on data from the Pew Research Center and the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. In demographic terms, most are of Hispanic/Latinx origin, coming from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador. In fact, most DACA recipients are from Mexico—about 80% are Mexican nationals. However, DACA recipients come from all over the world—there are DACA recipients from over 150 countries of origin, including India, South Korea, and the Philippines. Many of them have children with U.S. citizenship. About 250,000 American children have at least one parent with DACA status. DACA lets these family units stay together in the United States.
How many people apply for DACA Renewal each year?
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) is the agency within the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) responsible for processing DACA applications. USCIS receives, on average, 312,935 DACA renewal applications per year. It rejects around 8% of these before even processing them, often because the paperwork was incomplete or the applicant didn’t pay the filing fee.
From 2014—the first year when USCIS started accepting DACA renewal applications—to 2019, the number of people applying for DACA renewal each year rose from 122,249 to 406,586. During this time, Dreamers filed a total of 1,877,610 DACA renewal applications. Since DACA expires every two years, this number almost certainly includes many applicants who have applied for renewal more than one time.
USCIS data on submitted DACA Renewal applications
|Number of DACA Renewal Requests Submitted||122,249||391,878||198,520||470,668||287,709||406,586|
|Number of DACA Renewal Requests Accepted||116,424||363,544||187,354||427,257||258,060||384,586|
Source: USCIS Form I-821D Datasets. Immigration data is reported per fiscal year, not per calendar year. The USCIS fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30. Official data is limited to what USCIS provides. Since DACA is not a visa, the Office of Immigration Statistics does not report on DACA in its Yearbook of Immigration Statistics the way it does for other forms of legal immigration like refugee resettlement and immigrant population segments like new arrivals, asylees/asylum seekers, and international students.
How many DACA renewal applications are currently pending with USCIS?
In 2020, there are currently 36,806 renewal applications pending with USCIS. While this number was much higher in past years, it has come down in 2018 and 2019. While the reason for the smaller number of pending renewal applications is not clear, it may reflect the decrease in DACA processing times. The faster USCIS gets through applications, the fewer applications get left pending.
The current backlog is less than half of what it was in 2017 when it reached 82.694. It was highest in 2014, although 2014 was the first year that USCIS started accepting DACA renewal applications. The high backlog at the end of 2014 may have been a result of USCIS beginning a brand new process.
USCIS Data on pending DACA renewal applications
|Number of Pending DACA Renewal Applications||94,184||35,826||74,281||82,694||41,452||36,806|
How many DACA Renewal applications does USCIS approve each year?
Between 2015 and 2019, the number of immigrants whom USCIS approved for DACA renewal was, on average, 333,192 per year. The number of applications approved was at its lowest in 2014, at just 22,235. However, this was the first year that USCIS was accepting DACA renewal applications. Once the process was in full effect, USCIS began approving hundreds of thousands of applications per year.
USCIS data on approved DACA Renewal applications
|Number of DACA Renewals Approved||22,235||419,510||145,820||414,778||294,990||385,861|
How many DACA Renewal applications does USCIS deny each year?
In 2019, USCIS rejected or denied 25,346 DACA renewal applications. USCIS rejects some applications before even reviewing them. For example, if you file a renewal application without paying the filing fee, or you don’t submit all the right forms, USCIS will reject your application. These are called rejections. Denials, on the other hand, happen when USCIS reviews an application and decides not to grant it. In an average year, USCIS rejects seven times as many applications as it denies. Of the 1,877,610 DACA renewal applications filed between 2014 and 2019, USCIS only denied 17,084.
USCIS data on denied DACA Renewal applications
|Number of DACA Renewal Requests Rejected||28,334||11,166||43,411||26,649||22,000|
|Number of DACA Renewal Requests Denied||2,366||3,052||4,031||4,289||3,346|
|Total Rejected or Denied||20,700||14,218||47,442||30,938||25,346|
Renewing your DACA status isn’t always easy, but we can help you renew with confidence! If you’re ready to renew your DACA status, and would like someone to look over your application to ensure that you have included all the right forms and fees, we can help.
What are the 5 most common reasons that DACA Renewal applications are denied?
There are many reasons USCIS might deny a DACA renewal application. Here are five of the more common reasons and how you can steer clear of them.
Reason 1: You did not submit one or more DACA renewal application forms.
USCIS can reject your DACA application if it’s missing any of the three required forms. When you apply to renew your DACA status, you have to file Form I-821D, “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” Since DACA comes with a work authorization, you also have to file Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” and the Form I-765WS worksheet that goes with it. If you pay your filing fee by credit card, you must file Form G-1450, “Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.” Copies of these forms are all available at USCIS.gov.
Reason 2: You did not submit the correct DACA renewal application fees.
It costs $495 to apply for DACA renewal—$410 for the application and $85 for the biometrics appointment. If you don’t pay the fees when you submit your application, USCIS will reject it automatically. The fees can change. While the Trump Administration tried to raise the fees to $785, a federal judge stopped the fee increase for now. So, be sure to check out the current filing fee info published by USCIS. You can find more information about how to afford the processing fee in our learning center.
Reason 3: You did not file your DACA renewal application on time.
If you miss the deadline to file your DACA renewal, USCIS won’t automatically deny your application, but you might end up losing your current DACA status before your renewed DACA status takes effect. To avoid this, you should file your DACA renewal application at least 120 days before your DACA status expires. Otherwise, your status might expire before USCIS processes your renewal application.
Reason 4: You left the U.S. without advance parole.
Advance Parole allows you to travel outside of the U.S., as long as you get approval from USCIS first. It is available to DACA recipients and other migrants without permanent residence (in other words, people without green cards, like nonimmigrant visa holders). If you leave the U.S. without Advance Parole, USCIS can deny your DACA renewal application. Even a quick trip from San Diego to Tijuana to visit family members or from upstate New York to Canada to see Niagara Falls can give USCIS a reason to deny your application if you don’t have Advance Parole. Advance Parole allows you to return to the U.S. and legally pass through customs. You can learn more from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (also called “CBP,” this is the DHS agency responsible for immigration enforcement at customs checkpoints, as well as the border patrol).
You can request Advance Parole by filing Form I-131 with USCIS.
Reason 5: You did not submit a timely Request for Evidence (RFE) response.
USCIS might determine that they don’t have enough information based just on your application, in which case they’ll send you a Request for Evidence (“RFE”). The RFE means USCIS wants more evidence from you before it makes a decision. It will include a due date for submitting the evidence. (They will send the RFE by mail, so make sure you update your address on file if you move). If you fail to submit your response by the due date, USCIS can deny your application because they just do not have enough information to approve it.
How long does it take to renew DACA?
To renew your DACA status, you need to file Form I-821D and Form I-765 as part of your application. How long it takes USCIS to process these forms depends on where in the country you apply, and the amount of backlog at the USCIS service center handling your application. The process typically takes 6-12 months, during which time USCIS will send you several notices about your application.
How long does it take to get I-821D approved?
The Form I-821D is the form you file to apply for DACA status. The approval time depends on where in the country you file your application.
USCIS data on I-821D processing times
|USCIS Service Center||Estimated Processing Time|
How long does it take to get I-765 approved?
The Form I-765 is the form you file to apply for work authorization, one of the benefits of DACA.
USCIS data on I-765 processing times
|USCIS Service Center||Estimated Processing Time|
|National Benefits Center||2.5–5 months|
How do I know if my DACA Renewal application has been approved?
If USCIS approves your DACA renewal and work authorization application, it will send you two documents, both by mail. First, it will send you a written notice of your approval. Next, it will send you your Employment Authorization Document.
Dreamers, young folks who grew up in the U.S. but don’t have permanent legal status, are an important part of the U.S. population. Even though they’re non-citizens, this is the only country they’ve ever known, and many came to the U.S. as infants or toddlers and have lived here for so long that they no longer know anyone in their country of birth. DACA, which allows the Dreamers to apply for renewable two-year grants of legal status and work authorization, is an important lifeline to the Dreamers.