Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
What is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program?
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protects eligible undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were children. DACA provides temporary employment authorization (work permit) and protection from deportation. Each grant is valid for a period of two years and is generally renewable. Unfortunately, deferred action does not provide lawful status. That's why individuals eligible for DACA also need the help of Congress to provide a permanent path to lawful status (permanent residence) in the U.S.
Although the Trump administration attempted to rescind the DACA program on multiple occasions, courts have generally ruled in favor of the DACA program. The Biden administration further strengthened the policy by implementing a final rule for DACA in 2022. Currently, a Texas court injunction is blocking initial DACA applications. Therefore, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process DACA renewals. However, while this injunction remains in place, USCIS will not accept initial DACA applications from first-time applicants and people whose DACA expired more than a year ago. Under current policy, USCIS is:
- Accepting DACA renewal requests from individuals who currently have DACA; and
- Accepting DACA renewal requests from individuals whose DACA expired less than one year ago.
If your DACA expired more than one year ago or you never applied for DACA, you may not apply now. If the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rules favorably, you may have the opportunity to apply in the future. For more specific information about the application and eligibility requirements, visit our explainer for the DACA application.
When to Renew DACA
Is there a safe time to renew status?
Based on USCIS guidelines, processing times and recent court rulings, CitizenPath recommends that our customers prepare and file the DACA renewal application five months (150 days) before the expiration date. DACA renewals continue to have long processing times. Therefore, we suggest that customers mail the DACA application package (Forms I-821D, I-765, I-765 worksheet and all supporting documents) to USCIS five months (but no less than four months) well before the expiration date. Here’s why:
USCIS processing times can be very lengthy. If a person’s DACA status expires, that individual could be without a valid work permit for a short time. What’s more, the time spent in an unlawful status accrues. That could create a problem in the future. If your current period of DACA expires before you receive a renewal, you will:
- Accrue unlawful presence for any time between the periods of deferred action (unless you were under 18 years old when submitting request)
- Not be authorized to work in the United States regardless of your age at the time of filing
Note: If USCIS does have the option to provide deferred action and employment authorization for a short period of time until they are able to finish processing your request. However, they will only do this if you filed your request at least 4 months before your current period of deferred action and employment authorization expire.
Paths to Legal Status
Are there options for more permanent immigration solutions?
The uncertain future for DACA has forced everyone to reconsider other possible paths to a legal status within the United States. In some cases, individuals have an available path to a green card and don't even realize it.
Are you married to a U.S. citizen? Has any family relative ever filed an immigration petition on your behalf? Have you ever been a victim of a crime or domestic violence? All of these questions are very important because they may lay a foundation for immigration alternatives aside from DACA. Marriage, employment, asylum status and the U visa are just a few of the possibilities. It's important that anyone with an undocumented status understands their options. Contact an immigration attorney or other legal service provider to analyze your situation.
How CitizenPath Helps You Prepare the DACA Application
Is there an inexpensive way to file the DACA application?
CitizenPath's affordable, online service makes it easy to prepare Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Designed by immigration lawyers, the DACA Application Package helps you eliminate the common errors that create delays, rejections and even denials. That's because the service alerts you when your answer to a question may be a problem. You'll also get customized filing instructions based on your situation. It's a powerful, do-it-yourself tool that puts you in control. And we've got your back -- CitizenPath provides live customer support and provides a money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve your application. Get started >>
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Once you're completely satisfied, you’ll be able to print your I-821D, I-765, I-765WS and customized filing instructions.