Good news for the 560,000 undocumented immigrants (88,000 in Texas) who enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012: the program was renewed for two more years. If you are eligible for DACA but have never applied, you may also apply for DACA status this year. While we are disappointed that comprehensive and meaningful immigration reform has not passed into law, we are happy that DACA beneficiaries can feel safe for at least two more years, provided they do everything they need to do to be granted and maintain DACA status.
What is DACA?
DACA is a program that was created to allow certain undocumented immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children to receive a work permit and pursue education, free from the threat of deportation, for a period of two years. A temporary relief measure, DACA acknowledges the fact that many undocumented immigrants never made the choice to come into the country illegally; rather, that decision was made for them by their parents.
Who Is Eligible For DACA?
You are eligible for DACA 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;
Had no lawful status on 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,or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Who Can Renew
Did not depart the United States on or after Aug. 15, 2012, without advance parole (Advance parole means you must be granted permission to travel outside of the U.S. while under DACA status. Once USCIS has approved your request for DACA, you may file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, to request advance parole to travel outside of the United States. If you travel outside the United States without first receiving advance parole, USCIS will automatically terminate your DACA and may not be eligible for renewal.);
Have continuously resided in the United States since you submitted your most recent DACA request that was approved; and
Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
When to Renew
You should submit your renewal request about 120 days (4 months) before your current period of deferred action will expire. If you submit your request more than 150 days (5 months) before your current period expires, USCIS may reject it and return it to you with instructions to resubmit it closer to the expiration date. If you file too close to your expiration date, however, your authorization to work may lapse and you may be considered to be in the U.S. illegally.
You must renew DACA status and your work permit before they expire.
There is a $380 filing fee and an $85 biometric services (fingerprints and photo) fee, so the total cost is $465 for both first time applicants and renewals. However, there are resources available which can help you pay for these costs.
Many organizations have established lending circles for DREAMers, which are zero-fee, zero-interest credit-building loans. Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco provides a $155 charitable donation towards your application fee and will loan you the remaining $310 for your DACA application.
Self-Help Loan for DREAMers:
The Self Help Loan for DREAMers through the Community Trust
organization provides individual loans for up to $465. People who get the loan can build or repair their credit with an interest rate of 8% APR, which is only about $20 in interest.
Many people have asked their families and community members for financial assistance to apply for DACA. Some people have created online petitions to ask for donations.
Fee Exemption (must be completed and approved before you file for DACA):
United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) offers very limited fee exemptions for DACA. A fee exemption may be granted for someone under age 18 who meets one of the following criteria: is homeless; is in foster care; is without parent support; has income less than 150% of federal poverty guidelines; cannot care for him/herself because of disability; or has high medical-related debt. There is a fee exemption form, which must be approved before the actual DACA request can be filed.
If you want more information about how to file for DACA or renew your status, please contact us today to schedule a consultation.