Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) offers many benefits to recipients. This program was created to help young people who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were children. The program benefits both those brought to the country unlawfully and those brought here on a valid visa who overstayed.
DACA gives these young immigrants an opportunity to lawfully work in the United States while protecting them from the threat of deportation. Unfortunately, the future of this program is unclear, as it has faced numerous challenges in the decade since it was created. In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know to submit your initial application for DACA.
DACA Initial Eligibility Requirements
Before you can apply for DACA, you need to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements. For first-time applicants to be eligible, the DACA initial requirements state that you:
- Were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012
- Entered the U.S. before turning 16 years old
- Continuously resided in the U.S. from June 15, 2007, to the present date
- Were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012
- Are physically present in the U.S. when you apply for DACA
- Had no lawful status in the U.S. on June 15, 2012
- Are currently enrolled in school, graduated, obtained a certificate of completion, or were honorably discharged from the U.S. armed services
- Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, multiple misdemeanors, or pose a threat to national security or public safety
How to Apply for DACA
Before you submit your application, you’ll need to gather all the supporting documents required by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is essential that you only send copies of your documents rather than originals, as they will not be returned. Necessary documents include:
- Two passport-style photographs with your name and date of birth written on the back
- A copy of your foreign passport biographic page along with any prior visa and I-94 cards (if applicable)
- A copy of your original birth certificate along with a translation to English (if necessary) or an unexpired passport
- A copy of all paperwork associated with any criminal or traffic court cases on record (if applicable)
- A copy of your school records, including proof of enrollment, report cards and transcripts, school ID cards, awards earned, and high school diploma or GED certificate (if applicable)
- Proof of entry into the U.S. before age 16, along with continuous residence since June 15, 2007, and physical presence on June 15, 2012
There are various documents you can use as proof of entry and continuous residence and presence in the U.S., including:
- Tax returns
- Employment records
- Letters from internships and volunteer work
- Medical records
- Leases and rental agreements
- Utility bills and phone bills
- Bank and credit card statements
- Birth certificates of children or siblings born in the U.S.
- Affidavits from relatives, teachers, or friends attesting to your physical presence
- Photographs that support your claim
Once you have all these documents together, you will need to prepare the application forms and pay the application fee. You will need to make sure you have the most up-to-date forms, as USCIS will not accept outdated versions.
Along with submitting Form I-821D: Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, you will need to submit Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization and the accompanying Form I-765WS worksheet. You may also submit Form G-1145: e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance if you want to be notified when USCIS accepts your application.
After you have completed your forms, you should create a simple cover letter to accompany your application. You are then ready to assemble and ship your application to USCIS. When preparing your application for shipping, it is recommended that you use paper clips rather than staples and assemble your application in the following order:
- Application fee
- Cover letter
- Form G-1145 (if applicable)
- Form I-821D
- Form I-765
- Form I-765WS
- Copies of all supporting documents
Make sure to keep a copy of your full application for yourself so that you can easily reference it if necessary. Make sure to ship your application to the USCIS location that services your area and choose a delivery option that allows you to track your package.
Cost to Apply for DACA
The DACA application fee is $495, which can be paid by money order, cashier’s check, personal check, or credit card if you also submit Form G-1450: Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. All payment forms must be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In some cases, you may be able to apply for an exemption to the fee. However, the requirements for an exemption are very strict.
Things to Consider Before Applying for DACA
One of the most important things to keep in mind if you are considering applying for DACA for the first time is that there are currently legal challenges to the program. The most significant obstacle to DACA at the moment is the ruling of a Texas judge on July 16, 2021. This ruling partially ended the DACA program. However, it is still being challenged in court.
Because of the Texas court decision, USCIS is limited in the way they can handle first-time DACA applications. They are currently allowed to continue to accept these applications, but can not process or approve them. Because of this, if you submit an initial DACA application, you won’t get a response or be refunded the application fee.
You should consult with an immigration lawyer if considering applying for DACA. Even though your application can not currently be approved, there still might be some benefits to applying, especially if the decision of the Texas judge gets overturned on appeal.
What Happens After Applying for DACA?
After you submit your DACA application, you will enter a waiting period. If you chose to file Form G-1145, you will receive a one-time e-Notification after your application is received by USCIS. Whether you requested e-Notification or not, you will still receive a physical notice of the receipt of your application in the mail one to four weeks after filing.
On your notice of receipt, there will be a reference number you can use to check the status of your account on the USCIS website at any time.
Within four months of the arrival of your notice of receipt, you should receive a notification about your biometrics appointment, including the time and date of the appointment and what to bring with you. At your appointment, USCIS will collect your fingerprints and your signature and take your picture.
While waiting for the final decision, you may receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS. This request will ask for specific additional evidence in support of your case. If you fail to provide this additional information, your DACA application will be denied. It can take several months to receive the final decision on your case.
What to Do Next if DACA Is Approved
If your application is approved, you will receive your Employment Authorization Document in the mail. DACA enrollment is only valid for two years, and with the time it can take for an application to be approved, you will want to get started sooner rather than later. While you don’t need to apply for renewal immediately, you should give yourself at least a few months.
What to Do Next if DACA Is Denied
Unfortunately, there is no appeal process if your application gets denied. Your only option will be to reapply. However, this will mean that you will have to pay the application fee again. It is essential to file your application correctly the first time to avoid wasting time and money.
How Long Is DACA Status Valid?
While DACA validity was temporarily reduced from two years to one year during the Trump administration, it has returned to its original two-year validity period. Unfortunately, with the long wait times for approval, DACA recipients can be left feeling like they are constantly in the approval and reapproval process.
Get Help With Your DACA Application Today
Unfortunately, with the current status of DACA, things are not looking good for those not already enrolled in the program. However, there is a lot of support for bolstering the legal standing of DACA as well as improving upon the program to provide expanded rights for recipients, including a pass to permanent residency and citizenship.
If you are considering applying or reapplying for DACA, an immigration services company like ImmigrationDirect can help. We provide you with the necessary tools to ensure your application is filed correctly and on time so that you can avoid any potential delays or other complications. Contact us today to learn more about your options.