Just short of one month after USCIS applications became available for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, USCIS has begun mailing out approvals to applicants. News sources estimate that since the program began on August 15, 2012, some 72,000 young, undocumented immigrants have applied. Department of Homeland Security estimates there are more than 1.2 million immigrants eligible for DACA.
The DACA program is political. It does not convey legal immigration status, and its benefits may not be permanent. DACA status must be renewed every two years and there could be risks involved in bring your undocumented status to the attention of the USCIS, particularly any criminal history exists. So why apply? Because the benefits probably outweigh the risks for most people. It is a chance to get Employment Authorization, apply for a social security number, obtain a drivers license (in most states), go to college, travel, and, for at least two years, be free from the fear of deportation.
To be eligible for DACA, you must meet the following criteria:
You may request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals if you:
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
There are 3 USCIS application forms that must be completed.
• Form I-821D – Consideration of Deferred Action fro Childhood Arrivals • Form I-765, Application for Work Authorization • Form I 765 Worksheet
With the application, your must supply documentation to show that you meet each of the 6 specific eligibility requirements. The documentation can be elementary, high school or college records, report cards, or transcripts, baptism, communion, confirmation certificates, federal and state tax returns, medical, dental and vaccination records, bank checking and savings account records, including checks written on specific dates, credit card receipts, apartment leases and pay stubs. Many other documents can be used to demonstrate your presence in the United States, as long as they are normal documents used in the course of business and your name and date appears on the document.
Lawyers may charge $1,000 to $5,000 and higher to file your DACA petition. If you have ever been arrested, you should definitely seek the counsel of a lawyer before you send and application to the USCIS. However, my law office has seen many applicants who feel confident in preparing and filing their applications pro se, and just want to consult an attorney to answer questions and possibly review their applications. Some attorneys are providing this service for a small consultation fee.