Are you an immigrant who entered the United States as a minor without official papers? If yes, the DACA program may be for you. Here we will discuss in detail what DACA requirements you need to meet in order to successfully enroll in the program.
What is DACA?
Thousands of immigrants seek asylum in the United States each year. Many of these immigrants are forced to take undocumented immigration measures to escape from the life-threatening conditions in their home countries.
A large number of these unlawful immigrants are minors when they arrive on US soil. The DACA program is a policy by the United States Government, targeted at undocumented immigrants, who arrived in the country when they were minors.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a program initiated by the Obama administration. It is designed specifically to protect the rights of immigrants who entered United States borders undocumented as children, to seek asylum. The DACA program protects these immigrants from being deported to their home countries. The program can be applied for, once the immigrant children reach 16 years of age. In some cases, children may be granted DACA protection at 15 years of age or younger. You will need to consult your immigration attorney to know at what age you or your child is eligible to apply for the DACA program.
What are the benefits of the DACA program?
The main advantages of the DACA program are:
- Individuals who are enrolled in the DACA program can apply for a Social Security Number, a Driver’s License and a Work Permit.
- DACA protected individuals – officially referred to as DREAMers – will be able to prevent potential deportation by a period of two years increments. They will be able to reside in the United States legally for the next two years, subject to renewal.
- DACA immigrants will find it easier to apply for medical aid, academic scholarships and housing, once they are enrolled on the DACA program.
Is the DACA program similar to the DREAM Act?
Recent DACA news shows that the DACA program is not similar to the proposed DREAM Act.
According to the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, the US Government wants to offer temporary residency to undocumented immigrants who attained legal age in the US.
However, the DACA program is different. It does not offer Permanent Residency, Citizenship or any other form of official status to eligible undocumented immigrants.
Who is qualified to apply for the DACA program?
You will be able to apply for enrollment in the DACA program, if:
- You are an undocumented immigrant living in the United States.
- You were brought into the United States by immigrant parents prior to your 16th birthday.
- You have resided within the United States since the time of your arrival in the country.
Key DACA Requirements
Basic qualification aside, applicants to the DACA program must meet the following DACA requirements to successfully apply for DACA protection:
- You must have entered the United States without official documentation before June 15th 2012.
- You must not have had any legal status in the United States as of June 15th 2012.
- You must have resided continuously in the United States from June 15th 2007 till the date of your DACA application.
- You must have been under the age of 31, as of June 15th, 2012 and were physically residing in the US on that date.
- You are currently enrolled in school, or have completed your high school or GED. Or you have been honourably discharged from the United States defence forces or Coast Guard.
- You must not have a single felony or serious misdemeanour conviction or 3 or more other misdemeanour convictions to your name. You must not be a security threat to the United States or the public.
How to apply for the DACA program?
If you meet the above DACA requirements, you will be allowed to apply for the DACA program. Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Fill in and submit Form I-821D, which is the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Form to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- If you wish to apply for employment, you will need to fill in and submit Form I-765, which is the application for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
- Fill in and submit the Form I-765WS worksheet for the EAD.
- Make a payment of $495 to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Money orders, cashier’s cheques and personal cheques are accepted.
- Fill in and submit Form G-1145 to receive electronic notifications about the progress of your DACA application.
- If you haven’t already, submit all documents pertaining to your criminal history or removal proceedings, to the USCIS.
You will be contacted by the USCIS if further action is needed.
What happens if you are enrolled on the DACA program?
If you are enrolled on the DACA program, you will receive a deferment of any legal action for a period of two years from the date of enrollment.
Should your DACA protection be renewed?
Yes, it must. After the two-year period, recipients of the DACA protection must apply for DACA renewal every two-year, or risk losing their privileges.
What are the DACA requirements for DACA renewal?
You can apply for DACA renewal if you meet the following DACA requirements:
- You have not exited the United States on or after Aug. 15th 2012, without advanced parole.
- You have been residing in the United States continuously since the time of your last approved DACA request.
- You have not been convicted of any felony, misdemeanour and are not a threat to national security.
What are the steps for DACA renewal?
The DACA renewal process is similar to the DACA application process. You will need to fill in and submit Form I-821D, Form I-765, Form I-765WS, any criminal history/removal documents and the optional Form G-1145 to the USCIS.
The cost of DACA renewal stands at $495 per application.
What is the legal status of DACA application today?
According to recent DACA news, the United States Government is not currently granting New DACA program applicants. Only DACA renewals will be processed for the moment. Additionally, all DACA renewals will be subjected to the following changes:
- Applications for renewals must be filed between 120 & 150 days before the expiry of the current DACA.
- All requests for travel overseas made by DACA holders will be denied unless they are deemed “exceptional circumstances” by the USCIS.
Additionally, there are talks to reduce future new DACA enrollment periods from two years to one-year deferment. However, there is hope. The Biden administration promises to strengthen the DACA program and accept new applications soon.
If you have any questions about your DACA program or would like assistance with DACA renewal, contact us at Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office for advice.