Applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

What is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)?

DACA is a program implemented by President Obama on June 12, 2014 to help foreign nationals without lawful US immigration status come out of the shadows. Many persons who are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals first arrived in the United States with a lawful immigration status – some were lawful children of visitors, diplomats, foreign workers and foreign students. Many of them came at such a young age that they know no other home but the United States and are quintessentially American but for lack of immigration status. For many of these childhood arrivals, due to no fault of their own, they lack a lawful immigration status in the United States.

Contrary to what many believe, deferred action is not a new practice by the US Government. For decades the government has exercised discretion to prioritize the allocation of limited resources for deportation of undocumented immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), the agency charged with apprehension and removal of illegal aliens, focuses their efforts on finding and deporting criminals, not families.

Original DACA Program

President Obama’s DACA program identified specific individuals – childhood arrivals – for deferred action. The eligibility criteria included the following:

  • Arrival in the USA before reaching the age of 16
  • Continuous residence in the USA for at least five years preceding June 15, 2012, and are present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012
  • Currently in school or pursuing a GED program, or a graduate of high school, or have obtained a GED, or an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or multiple misdemeanors, or do not otherwise post a threat to national security or public safety
  • Are not over the age of 30 at the time of application

DACA Application Process

In order to apply for DACA, persons must submit USCIS Forms I-821D, I-765, I-765W, filing fees and supporting documentation to prove eligibility. For many, proof of residency can be the hardest part because a lack of a social security number makes it difficult to create the kind of paper trail the government wants to see, such as W2s, bank statements and utility bills.

If approved, a DACA recipient receives a work permit that allows them to obtain a social security number and in most states, a Driver’s License. DACA provides deferred action for a period of 2 years, and approximately 5 months before the expiration date.

Individuals need to apply for deferred action renewal, otherwise, they will accrue unlawful presence in the United States upon the expiration.

Expanded DACA Program

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced several immigration reform program, one of which included an expansion of the DACA program. The expanded DACA program included the following basic criteria:

  • Entry to the USA before your 16th birthday
  • Entry to the USA on or before January 1, 2010 (rather than June 12, 2007)
  • Currently in high school or a GED program, or a high school graduate or GED recipient
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or multiple misdemeanors, or do not otherwise post a threat to national security or public safet
  • Individuals of any age can apply (they no longer need to be under the age of 30)

Another major change to the program was that the approval period is extended to 3 years instead of 2.  DACA renewal requests would also need to be submitted every 3 years.

The Expanded DACA program was meant to begin on February 17, 2015, but a few days before the program started, pursuant to a lawsuit filed by 26 states in a U.S. District Court in Texas, Judge Andrew Hanen issued an injunction against the implementation of expanded DACA. Though many did not believe the judge had the power to issue a country-wide injunction, the Obama administration honored the decision and aggressively appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. On April 17, 2015, oral arguments were heard by a panel of the Fifth Circuit and a decision has not yet been given. For now, the expanded DACA program is on hold.

For persons eligible for DACA, USCIS is still accepting applications for the original DACA program while many childhood arrivals are currently filing for DACA renewals. According to Pew Research, approximately 611,000 DACA applications have been granted out of 702,000 applications. The program has generated tax revenues while allowing many childhood arrivals to come out of the shadows.

If you are considering applying for DACA, LegalZoom can help you complete your application fast and affordably. Get started by answering a few questions. We will check your forms for common mistakes and you'll be able to download and print your forms. You'll be provided with helpful instructions so you know where to file and what the required government fees are.