The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (also known as the DREAMers program) is a US immigration policy that allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the US as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit. In this guide, we will discuss the eligibility criteria, processes, and filing requirements for applying for initial and renewal deferred action requests under the DACA program.
Before we begin, it is important to note that due to legal challenges to the DACA program, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is currently accepting, but not processing new DACA requests. However, it is still processing and granting renewal requests for DACA and work permits, as well as grants of advance parole (discussed below).
Work Authorization: DACA recipients are eligible to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). EADs are commonly referred to as work permits, which allow DACA recipients to work in the US on a temporary basis legally.
Eligibility for Advance Parole: In the context of DACA, Advance Parole refers to temporary permission granted by the USCIS to DACA recipients to travel outside the US for specific limited reasons and return without losing their DACA status (discussed further below).
A Social Security Number: Having a social security number (SSN) has many advantages, including eligibility to receive certain social security benefits, participate in Medicare, and claim the earned income tax credit (EITC), which can be major benefits for lower-income earners. Furthermore, some employers require that their employees have an SSN (although many will only require that they have an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN))
Additional Benefits: While DACA recipients are not eligible for federal financial aid, many can still enroll in colleges and vocational schools. Some states even offer in-state tuition rates to DACA recipients, and private scholarships and state-based aid are available in some cases. Depending on the state, additional benefits may be available to DACA recipients, including driver's licenses, professional licenses, and access to certain state-funded social services.
To be eligible for DACA, you must meet several criteria, including:
In addition to these criteria, you must not have been convicted of a felony or certain classes of misdemeanor(s), and you must not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
The following documentation should be submitted to establish your identity and ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria:
The following forms should be submitted with your DACA application:
Both initial and renewal applications must be accompanied by an application fee of $495. This fee consists of a $410 filing fee and an $85 biometrics fee. Note that you'll also have to attend a biometrics appointment as part of the process. While initial applications must be submitted through a USCIS Application Support Center (ASC), renewal applications may be submitted online.
It's crucial to be aware that leaving the country can jeopardize your DACA status and make you ineligible to reenter the country unless the USCIS has granted you Advance Parole.
The USCIS grants Advance Parole for limited reasons, including:
Navigating the DACA application process can be daunting, with numerous requirements and deadlines to meet. A qualified immigration attorney can help ensure that you meet all eligibility criteria and submit a complete and accurate application. Through AAL's directory, you can find numerous skilled attorneys with extensive experience in immigration law to help guide you through the complex DACA process.