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.
Stated-Issued Driver's License
Can I get a driver's license with DACA?
If you have been granted DACA status and have received a Social Security card, you may be eligible for a driver's license. The rules governing eligibility for a driver's licenses vary by state (not federal government like USCIS). Therefore a grant of DACA does not automatically provide access to a state driver's license. But DACA recipients who have obtained an employment authorization card (work permit) and Social Security card generally can satisfy the state requirements for a driver’s license or state ID. Here’s how:
- Determine if You are Eligible in Your State
Most states have confirmed that a driver's license will be available to individuals with a DACA grant. You may only obtain a driver's license in your state of residence. Contact your state’s department of motor vehicles to review the specific requirements for obtaining the driver's license or state ID.
- Take Required Documents
In most cases, you will need to take your Social Security card and employment authorization card as identification when applying for a driver's license or state ID. Again, check your state's requirements.
- Take the Tests
If you want a driver's license (rather than just a state ID), you will need to pass both a written test that covers traffic laws and a "behind the wheel" driving test.
DACA Work Authorization
What are my employment rights?
As a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, USCIS will provide you an employment authorization document (EAD). The card opens doors to new employment opportunities that were previously not available to you. But you should also be aware of your employment rights. Employers cannot ask DACA recipients for more or different work authorization documentation than what is already permitted by Form I-9. Likewise, an employer cannot reject work authorization documents because of your citizenship status or national origin.
It is your responsibility to maintain your DACA status and the employment authorization that comes with it. If you continue to work for an employer after your EAD has expired, you will be working without authorization. That could lead to problems down the road if DACA recipients are granted a path to legal status. Therefore, it’s very important to keep your DACA status renewed.
Review these frequently asked questions and answers to better understand your employment rights with DACA.
Protection from Deportation
Can I be deported if my DACA expires?
DACA provides temporary protection from deportation. That protection is valid for the term of the DACA grant. For that reason, it's important to renew your status before it expires.
Maintain your DACA status. By law, individuals with an expired grant of DACA do become deportable. However, it's likely that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will not prioritize the removal of expired DACA recipients without a criminal record. You may participate in rallies and protests. But do so wisely and avoid any wrongful or illegal activities that could get you arrested and perhaps prosecuted. That will only aggravate your situation.
We also encourage you to seek the advice of an immigration attorney that can explain your options.
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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