The DACA program launched in August of 2012 when the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting DACA applications. The original DACA program underwent transformation in November 2014 that modified eligibility requirements as well as introduced a new application process that first launched early 2015. Today, even students and graduates over the age of 31 or in the midst of deportation proceedings can, with the help of a reliable and experience immigration attorney, file an application for deferred action because of a childhood arrival.
First Things First – Get an Immigration Attorney Right Away
If you are a student or graduate studying or interning here in the US, your education and degree depend on your ability to stay in the country until the completion of your academic obligation. Immigration laws are complex and for any number of reasons students or graduates may find themselves in need of filing for DACA status.
Everyone going through the DACA application process could strongly benefit from the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney. However, if you are a student who has any questions about your eligibility status or if you’ve had any kind of criminal history at all –it is especially imperative you seek out legal assistance right from the start of your application process. This is true even if your criminal history is sealed or expunged.
Additionally, the first round of DACA applications (before the changes made in November 2014) only granted temporary eligibility and must be renewed within 2 years. New DACA regulations changed this from 2 to 3 years. So if you’ve already received DACA eligibility, consulting an experienced immigration attorney will help you determine when you need to reapply and what specifically you’ll need to include at that time.
Determining Whether or Not You Fit DACA Eligibility Criteria
There are a few basic criteria all DACA applicants must meet in order to be eligible:
Have not left the US since August of 2012 without first obtaining permission from the USCIS.
Have continually lived within the US since first submitting your first DACA application.
Have no convictions of a felony, or more than three misdemeanors or a significant misdemeanor
Have not done anything to suggest you are a threat to public safety or national security
You must still be continuing on your education path – if you fail to get a GED you could lose eligibility.
For those who applied when DACA originally went live before the changes at the start of 2015 and are 31 years of age or older, you are eligible to reapply. The changes implemented at the start of 2015 no longer have an age restriction placed upon eligibility.
If you have failed to meet educational requirements or been convicted of a crime or have a concern about any of these specific eligibility requirements, consult an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney.
Filling Out the Proper Forms
As stated, the specific forms students and graduates seeking to apply for deferred action based upon a childhood arrival in the US include:
Form I-821-D– This is the actual initial application form for DACA eligibility
Form I-765– This is the Application for Employment Authorization Form
Form I-765WS (the accompanying worksheet for I-765)
When filling out the forms, there are several things you’ll want to consult with your attorney on order to prevent a misfiling. Your attorney can help you note which boxes are important to check – for example checking Box 2 in Part 1 for a renewal request or helping you make a decision about which race to choose if yours is not listed because the current DACA form fails to include an other option.
Therefore, it’s best to not fill these forms out alone but instead take time to go over them with your immigration attorney.
Supporting Documentation to Include with your DACA Application
Beside the forms (I-821-D & I-765) and the worksheet (I-765WS) listed above, applicants need to collect and include quite a bit of supporting documentation as evidence they do indeed meet the qualifications for deferred action. The USCIS will need to obtain proof of the following from applicants:
Presence in the US on June 15, 2012
Entry Date into the US
Continuous physical presence within the US
The USCIS accepts copies of the following types of documentation as evidence:
Passport / Other Photo ID
Travel receipts like plane or bus tickets
Any school transcripts or records
Social media check-ins inside the US
Medical or Dental Records of Treatment
Visa & Form I-94
Any past documents from USCIS or other immigration authorities US Driver License
Shopping & Dining Receipts
Bills Addressed to You in the US
US Military Records in the US
Any US Employment Records
It’s important to understand that this list is not exhaustive and these are merely examples of the types of documents. There is a good chance you have other documents other than these listed here that pertain to your unique job, education, shopping, and living history within the US. An example would be an award you won from a youth sporting event, summer camp records, or even traffic violations. A word of caution – using information to verify your residence in the US that may bring up other legal issues like traffic violations could actually complicate your DACA application. This is one of the many reason you should seek out the services of a qualified and experienced immigration attorney if you are a student or graduate in the process of applying for deferred action.
Supporting Documentation to Include with your DACA Renewal
The good news is that once you’ve qualified, the renewal process for DACA eligibility isn’t quite as complicated. Far fewer documents will be needed in subsequent renewal applications than with the original. This is because the renewal process assumes from the start that applicants still meet the original criteria. There are some things you’ll need to submit with your renewal, however. These pertain particularly to any changes in your situation that may have an effect upon your continued eligibility, such as:
Any documentation concerning any new deportation or removal proceedings with immigration.
Any documentation concerning any new convictions of a felony or misdemeanor.
You will also be required to provide your fingerprints and pass an FBI background check
If you anticipate any issues or complications with your renewal process, the best thing you can do is reach out to a qualified and experienced immigration attorney who can help you navigate any of the legal complexities or uncertainties that exist with your particular situation.
Application and Renewal Filing Fees & Timing
The current DACA application fee is $465 which includes $85 for the fingerprint background check and $380 for EAD. In certain and limited circumstances, USCIS may exempt certain applicants from these fees if they fall below the US poverty line.
If you apply more than 150 days prior to the expiration of your EAD or work permit, the USCIS will reject your application. However, waiting too long could mean your EAD expires before approval resulting in an unlawful status going on your record. Therefore, submit your application no more than 150 days before and no less than 120 days before the expiration of your EAD or work permit.
When renewing, make sure to file at least 120 days before the deadline to ensure no eligibility gaps that could affect your status. The fee for renewal is the same as for the initial application: $465 with $85 covering the fingerprint check and the rest directly for the EAD.
Still Have Questions?
Your immigration status and eligibility to complete your studies in the US are essential to your investment in education and your eventual career. Navigating the red-tape and legal complexities associated with immigration, deportation, childhood arrival, and deferred action require insight, experience, and a thorough understanding of the legal issues at stake. You need a qualified immigration attorney like Yoel Molina who has the legal expertise and experience to help you safely navigate the DACA application process. So give the Law Offices of Yoel Molina a call or email now and let us help make your application a success.