As of right now, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is still alive – but like other Texas immigration attorneys, we can’t predict its future. However, if you used the program in the past, you may need to go through the DACA renewal process.
What’s Happening With DACA?
Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. initiated the original DACA program in 2012. The program was designed to provide a two-year deferment from deportation actions while providing eligibility for a work permit – and it helped hundreds of thousands of young people who came to the United States as children.
However, in 2017, under a different presidential administration, the U.S. government ended the DACA program. The change negatively impacted those same young people – and it left many unsure about what to do next. Federal courts then stepped in and revived the program, ordering USCIS to continue processing DACA renewals. The U.S. Supreme Court then blocked the administration’s attempt to end the program in a 5-4 ruling. The Supreme Court’s ruling maintained the program and allowed DACA recipients to renew membership in the program.
Who Can File For DACA Renewal?
Not everyone qualifies for DACA renewal. You can only request a renewal of DACA if you met the requirements in the initial 2012 DACA guidelines and you:
- Didn’t leave the U.S. on or after August 15, 2012, without advance parole
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. since you submitted your most recently approved DACA request
- Have not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor
- Have not been convicted of three or more misdemeanors in total
- Don’t pose a threat to national security
- Don’t pose a threat to public safety
Can You Apply for DACA if You Have Never Been Part of the Program Before?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is accepting new applications for the DACA program. The agency is acting under an order from a U.S. District Court effective December 7, 2020, which requires USCIS to:
- Accept first-time requests for consideration of deferred action based on the terms of the policy that were in effect before September 5, 2017 (the date the previous administration attempted to cancel the program)
- Accept DACA renewal request based on the terms of the DACA policy that were in effect prior to September 5, 2017
- Accept applications for advance parole documents based on the terms of the DACA policy as it was prior to September 5, 2017
- Extend one-year grants of deferred action to two-year grants
- Extend one-year employment authorization documents to two-year employment authorization documents
What is Advance Parole?
Advance parole is permission a person gets from the U.S. government to travel back to the United States without applying for a visa. Transportation companies (such as airlines) can accept advance parole documents instead of visas to prove that you are authorized to travel to the United States. It’s important to note that you can only get advance parole if you are already in the United States – you can’t get it if you haven’t been in the country before. It’s like a permission slip that says, “Yes, this person is authorized to travel outside the U.S. and to return when his or her trip out of the country is over.”
For the most part, travel for vacation purposes isn’t a valid basis for advance parole. In fact, USCIS will usually only grant you advance parole if your travel abroad has to do with things like:
- Humanitarian purposes. That may include travel to obtain medical treatment, attend funeral services for a family member or visit a sick relative.
- Educational purposes. Educational purposes are things like studying under semester-abroad programs or conducting academic research.
- Employment purposes. Overseas assignments, interviews, conferences and training may count as employment purposes.
Requirements In The Initial 2012 DACA Guidelines
The original DACA guidelines required immigrants to meet these conditions:
- You must have arrived in the U.S. when you were under the age of 16.
- You must have continuously resided in the U.S. for at least 5 years before June 15, 2012.
- You must be in school, graduated from high school, obtained a high school equivalency certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces (including the Coast Guard).
- You must not have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors, or pose a threat to national security or public safety.
- You must not be over the age of 30.
What If The Department Of Homeland Security Terminated Your DACA?
If you had DACA but it was cut short by the Department of Homeland Security, you can apply again. However, you’ll still have to submit evidence that proves you meet all the requirements for DACA eligibility.
Do Criminal Convictions Affect Your DACA Status?
Criminal convictions can affect your DACA status. If you have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, you cannot be considered for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals unless the Department of Homeland Security believes you have exceptional circumstances.
What Are Significant Misdemeanors?
Significant misdemeanors are misdemeanors (as defined by federal law) that:
- Are offenses of domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Are offenses for which you were sentenced to time in custody of more than 90 days.
What About Three (or More) Non-Significant Misdemeanors?
Three or more non-significant misdemeanors can be disqualifying for the DACA program. Non-significant misdemeanors are any misdemeanors as defined by federal law that:
- Are not offenses of domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Are offenses for which you were sentenced to time in custody of 90 days or less.
It’s important to note that decisions to defer action in any case is an individualized one. That means that significant or non-significant misdemeanors aren’t sole determining factors when it comes to a DHS decision.
How To Apply For DACA Renewal
Many people find it helpful to work with an immigration attorney when it comes to DACA renewal. Although you don’t have to use a lawyer, it’s often beneficial to have someone in your corner – and to have legal advice on what to do next as DACA makes its way toward its uncertain future.
In order to apply for DACA renewal, you and your attorney will complete several forms and submit them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. These are the three required documents for DACA renewal:
- Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- Form I-765WS Worksheet
Some of these forms requires additional documentation that you’ll have to include when you file. For example, Form I-765 requires you to submit a copy of your last EAD, if you have one, as well as a copy of your Form I-94 (Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Record), two identical passport-style photos, and a copy of a government-issued ID.
Your attorney can guide you through the application process and let you know which forms are required with your DACA renewal application based on your situation.
How Soon Should You Apply For DACA Renewal?
If you want to apply for DACA renewal early because you’re not sure about what the future holds for the program, it’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer first. There are risks and benefits to filing early. For example, when DACA and advance parole were terminated in September 2017, USCIS stopped processing applications it had already accepted and returned application fees that were submitted with them. However, USCIS could still have the option to continue processing applications.
Another thing to think about: If you apply and USCIS grants your DACA renewal early, you might not add that much time to your authorization. If you apply now and USCIS grants your renewal, you’ll still only have 2 years after it’s approved.
Does DACA Provide a Path to Permanent Residency or Citizenship?
Under President Joe Biden, nearly 11 million DACA recipients may have a path toward permanent residency or citizenship. President Biden signed an executive order to preserve and fortify the DACA program, but his immigration proposal (named the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021) has not yet been approved by Congress.
How Much Does DACA Renewal Cost?
It costs $495 to file a renewal application with USCIS. If you’re having a hard time getting the funds together, you may be able to apply for a grant.
There are some fee exemptions, but they can be difficult to get. When you request a fee exemption, you must submit a letter and documentation that says:
- You’re under 18 and your income is less than 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level, and you’re in foster care or lacking parental or other familial support, or
- You are under 18 and homeless, or
- You have a serious, chronic disability that prevents you from caring for yourself and your income is less than 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level, or
- You have accumulated $10,000 or more in medical debt for yourself or an immediate family member over the past 12 months, and your income is less than 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level.
Do You Need To Talk To An Immigration Attorney About an Initial DACA Application or DACA Renewal?
If you need to talk to a lawyer about DACA renewal or about applying for the program for the first time, we’re here to help. Call us at 972-992-7593 for a free consultation with an experienced immigration attorney right now or view more DACA Information.