What is DACA?
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a temporary program that affords relief to some people who were brought to the United States as children. With DACA, qualified recipients receive a renewable two-year protection from deportation and employment authorization.
Here are some quick facts about the more than 640,000 DACA recipients in the U.S.
- Average DACA recipient arrived in the U.S. at age 7
- 37% arrived in the U.S. before age 5
- Average DACA recipient is 28 years old
- Average DACA recipient arrived in the U.S. in 1999
- 254,000 U.S.-born children have at least one DACA-recipient parent
- 1.5 million people in the U.S. live with a DACA recipient
- $5.6 billion in U.S. federal taxes are paid by DACA recipients
- $3.1 billion in state and local taxes are paid by DACA recipients
- 56,000 U.S. homes are owned by DACA recipients
Over half of all current DACA recipients live in just three U.S. states — California, Illinois, and Texas. Texas has over 100,000 current DACA recipients. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that more than 1.3 million additional people living in the U.S. meet the DACA requirements.
Who qualifies and who doesn’t qualify for DACA?
DACA recipients must demonstrate that they are long-term residents of the U.S. in good standing who were brought to this country as children — but that’s just a start. In order to be eligible for DACA, a person must show that they
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
- Entered the United States before reaching their 16th birthday
- Have continuously resided, and continue to reside, in the United States since June 15, 2007
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012
- Did not have a lawful immigration status or expired lawful status on or before June 15, 2012
- Are currently in school, have graduated high school or obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or other armed forces of the United States
- Have never been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor, have not had three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
Proving that someone meets all this criteria can be time consuming and frustrating, especially when it comes to getting old records and documentation. However, submitting the strongest application possible is important when it comes to being approved for the protections that DACA offers.
What must someone do to apply for DACA protection?
If you believe you are eligible and want to apply for DACA, you will need to follow the filing instructions and pay the $495 filing fee. You will also have to complete several forms in order to apply for deferred action and its work authorization protections:
- Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- Form I-765WS, which is used to determine if you have an economic need to work
Along with your USCIS forms, you will submit
- Two passport-style photo
- Proof of identity
- Proof of date of entry into the U.S.
- Proof of age at date of entry
- Proof of immigration status
- Proof of residency in the U.S. before June 15, 2012
- Proof of continuous residency
- Proof of school or military status
Some of the evidence that will need to be gathered to prove eligibility includes
- Passport stamps or entry forms
- Parents’ work history and pay stubs
- Parents’ rental history and lease documents
- Rent receipts or utility bills
- Pay stubs or W-2 forms
- Report cards or state test scores
- Hospital or medical records
Some may be concerned that they do not qualify for DACA because the law states that they must have been “continuously residing” in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. However, that does not mean they will not qualify if they ever left the U.S. after arriving (though it may be harder to prove continuous residency).
After all the evidence is gathered and the forms completed, you will submit your paperwork to the direct filing address found on the USCIS website. Texas applicants must mail the application and its supporting documentation to either Dallas or Lewisville, depending on the delivery service you use to send your application. If you file incorrectly, you will likely need to redo your application.
How can an experienced attorney help with DACA?
Like many people, you may worry that submitting a DACA application will put you at risk because you are alerting USCIS to your residency in the United States. Consulting with an immigration attorney who understands DACA is the best way to build the strongest case possible. Using an attorney to file for DACA applications can help you avoid paperwork errors, provide you with a dedicated address to receive mail with updates about your application, and provide information and support after you receive your deferred action.
DACA applicants and recipients may also apply for permission to travel outside the U.S. This is called “advance parole.” An attorney can help applicants understand the qualifications and limitations of advance parole in order to reduce the risk of losing their DACA status. Especially if you plan to travel outside the U.S., having an existing relationship with an attorney who knows you and your situation can be helpful in the event that you find your DACA status in jeopardy or, in the worst-case scenario, find yourself denied entry to the U.S.
DACA is not the same as having legal status in the U.S., and it is subject to change. However, an immigration attorney can help you review all your options as new immigration laws are passed or your life changes, such as if you become engaged to marry a U.S. citizen.
If you want more information about qualifying or applying for DACA, contact an immigration attorney at Farmer Law today.