Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
In June of 2012, under the direction of President Barack Obama, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security halted deportation efforts of certain undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children. The DHS granted them temporary protections against deportations (otherwise called “deferred action”). Since then, nearly 800,000 formerly undocumented persons have enrolled in the deferred action for childhood arrivals program. Some of the benefits of DACA include the ability to obtain a social security card, get a driver’s license, build credit, get a legal job, have healthcare, as well as the ability to put utility bills in their name. Unfortunately, much has changed since 2012 and the program has been halted until key decisions are made by the U.S. Supreme court. However, those that have previously enrolled in the DACA program are still able to renew their status (for the time being). If you are a DACA enrollee and are considering a renewal, it is recommended that you connect with a knowledgeable DACA immigration attorney to make sure that you are appropriately represented. Give the professionals at Florida Immigration Law Counsel a call to schedule your initial consultation today.
Who Can Apply For DACA?
As of October 2017, USCIS no longer accepts first-time Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications. These applications were halted via the DACA termination memo. Currently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is only accepting applications from people that are renewing their DACA status. If you have let your status expire or lapse, you are also eligible for renewal (though the process may more difficult). In order to apply for a DACA renewal, you must meet the following qualifications:
- You must not have left the U.S. anytime after August 15, 2012, without being granted permission by the U.S. government (advance parole).
- You must have resided in the U.S. continuously since the time that you first requested DACA status.
- You must have a relatively clean criminal record (no felonies, no serious misdemeanors, no more than 3 non-significant misdemeanors, and you must not pose any threat to public safety or national security).
How to Apply For DACA Renewal
Applying for a DACA renewal is a straightforward process. What’s unclear is the amount of time that it will take for your application to be processed and whether it will be approved or denied. Working with an experienced DACA attorney can help to increase your odds of a favorable outcome. Listed below are the recommended steps to take in order to renew your DACA status.
- Know when your DACA status is set to expire. The USCIS recommends that you submit your DACA renewal application no more than 150 days before your status is set to expire and no less than 120 days before it does. It’s best to submit your application closer to the 150-day mark.
- Fill out and submit the correct forms (to the correct location). You will need to fill out the same forms that you completed when you initially applied for DACA. They include Form I-1821D, Form I-765, and Form I-765WS. Ensure that you have the most up to date version of the forms. Also, be sure that the information that you provide on the forms is consistent with what you had on your initial application.
- The USCIS recommends that you do not send in additional documentation.
- Ensure that you have enough money set aside for the filing fee which is currently $495.
What If I Have a Recent Criminal Record?
If you have had any type of involvement with law enforcement since your initial application, it is important that you be transparent with USCIS when sending in your renewal application. Furthermore, if you have been convicted of a felony or otherwise committed infractions that would initially leave you ineligible for DACA, you will likely not have a pathway to renewal. However, if you have been convicted of non-significant misdemeanors or received citations, it is recommended that you do the following before submitting your application:
- Obtain a background check (FBI background check is recommended)
- Request your criminal records from the courts in which you were convicted
- Consult with an experienced DACA attorney
What is a “significant misdemeanor”?
Just one significant misdemeanor can disqualify you from renewing your DACA status. The Department of Homeland Security classifies a significant misdemeanor as the following (but not limited too):
- Any misdemeanor conviction that resulted in you being incarcerated for more than 90 days (not including sentences that were suspended).
- Misdemeanor offenses (regardless of the jail time sentenced) that include domestic violence, driving under the influence (DUI), unlawful possession of a firearm, significant drug charges (trafficking or distribution), sexual exploitation or abuse, or burglary.
Does DACA Offer a Path To Citizenship?
Unfortunately, at the moment, DACA does not offer a pathway to citizenship. However, there have been multiple attempts at enacting legislation that would do just that. Currently, the members of congress, as well as many advocates, are fighting on behalf of “Dreamers” so there is eventually a pathway to citizenship available. The only pathway to citizenship available to DACA recipients at the moment is through marriage to a U.S. citizen. However, it is not recommended to get married for the specific reason of obtaining citizenship as this is an unlawful activity and could negatively affect your current immigration status.
When To Work With a DACA Attorney
In recent years USCIS has become more strict and denials have increased. Working with a DACA experienced immigration attorney can help to ensure that your application is correctly completed, you met the current qualifications, and your paperwork meets USCIS standards. Furthermore, if you have had any negative interactions with law enforcement since the time of your initial application of you have let your DACA status expire or lapse, it can be advantageous to consult with an immigration attorney before submitting your renewal application. Give the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) professionals at Florida Immigration Law Counsel a call to discuss the specifics of your case in more detail.