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How to Apply for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)

U.S Citizenship and Immigration Service document

Eligibility Criteria for DACA Applicants

Understanding the Age Requirements

When it comes to navigating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, understanding the age requirements is crucial. To be eligible, individuals must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. This means that those who were born on or after June 16, 1981, could potentially meet the age criteria. Additionally, applicants must have entered the United States before reaching their 16th birthday. This age range is designed to ensure that DACA protections are extended to those who came to the U.S. during their formative years and have since established a life here. However, it's important to note that there are no exceptions to the upper age limit, which is why timely application is essential.

Residency and Presence Conditions

The DACA program also sets forth specific residency requirements that applicants must satisfy. One must have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time. This means that applicants must have been physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The continuous residence condition underscores the intention of DACA to benefit those who have built a substantial portion of their lives in the United States. Short, casual, and innocent absences from the U.S. may not affect this continuous residence requirement, but it's imperative to document and explain any such absences thoroughly in the application.

Required Documentation for DACA Application

Proof of Identity and Nationality

Establishing one's identity and nationality is a foundational step in the DACA application process. Applicants are typically required to present a passport or national identity document from their country of origin, which can include a birth certificate with a photo ID. In some cases, a school or military ID with a photo, or any U.S. government immigration or other document bearing your name and photo, can also serve as proof. It's essential to ensure that these documents are valid and unexpired where possible, as they form the basis for establishing eligibility for the program.

Evidence of Continuous Residence

Documenting continuous residence in the United States since June 15, 2007, is a pivotal part of the DACA application. Applicants can provide a variety of documents to meet this requirement, including but not limited to, school records, medical records, employment records, and utility bills. These documents should have the applicant's name, dates, and enough information to prove that the applicant was living in the U.S. during the required periods. It's important to gather a comprehensive set of documents that paint a clear picture of one's presence in the country over the years, as this can significantly impact the outcome of the application.

Application Process for DACA

Completing the Application Forms

The first step in applying for DACA is accurately completing the necessary application forms, which include Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This form requires detailed information about the applicant's background, education, and presence in the United States. It's crucial to fill out every section carefully and truthfully, as any discrepancies or omissions can lead to delays or denials. Alongside Form I-821D, applicants must also submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-765WS, a worksheet to establish economic need for employment.

Fee Structure and Waiver Information

The cost of applying for DACA includes a filing fee for the employment authorization document and a biometrics services fee. As of the knowledge cutoff date, the total fee is typically several hundred dollars. However, fee exemptions are available in certain circumstances, such as for applicants who are experiencing financial hardship, have a medical condition, or are without parental or familial support. To apply for a fee exemption, applicants must submit a request and provide supporting documentation before filing their DACA application. It's essential to understand the fee structure and waiver options to ensure that financial constraints do not hinder the application process.

Renewal and Maintenance of DACA Status

Timeline and Procedure for Renewal

DACA recipients must be vigilant about maintaining their status, and this includes understanding the renewal process. It is recommended to apply for renewal between 120 and 150 days before the current period of deferred action expires. The renewal process involves submitting the same forms as the initial application (Form I-821D, Form I-765, and Form I-765WS), along with the required fees. Staying ahead of the renewal timeline is critical, as it helps avoid any lapse in employment authorization or protection from deportation.

Addressing Lapses in DACA Status

There may be instances where a DACA recipient experiences a lapse in their status, perhaps due to a delay in the renewal process or other extenuating circumstances. In such cases, it's important to seek guidance as soon as possible. If the lapse is brief and due to processing delays, USCIS may provide information on potential remedies. However, if the lapse occurred because of a failure to apply for renewal on time, the individual may need to reapply as if they were applying for the first time, which includes providing evidence that they meet all the initial criteria. It's crucial to address any lapses promptly to minimize the risk of losing the protections and benefits that come with DACA status.

Legal Considerations and Support

Understanding the Legal Implications

DACA is a discretionary determination to defer deportation of individuals who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines. While it does not provide lawful status, it does come with certain benefits, such as work authorization. However, because DACA is not a law but a policy, its legal implications can be complex and subject to change. Recipients are not granted a path to permanent residency or citizenship through DACA alone, which is why understanding the legal nuances is critical. It's also important for recipients to be aware of their rights, such as the right to work legally and the right to apply for a Social Security number.

Resources for Legal Assistance

Finding reliable legal support is vital for navigating the DACA process successfully. Many organizations offer pro bono services to DACA applicants, including immigration advocacy groups and nonprofit legal service providers. Additionally, some law firms specialize in immigration law and can provide guidance tailored to an individual's unique circumstances. For those in Dallas, Texas, Akula & Associates P.C. is a trusted resource with expertise in immigration law, offering comprehensive support for DACA applicants and recipients. Seeking professional legal advice can make a significant difference in the outcome of an application or renewal.

Staying informed about policy changes is an ongoing responsibility for DACA recipients. The program has been subject to various legal challenges and policy shifts, making it essential for individuals to keep up-to-date with the latest developments. This can be achieved by regularly checking official USCIS announcements, following reputable news sources, and engaging with immigrant advocacy organizations that monitor and interpret policy changes. Being proactive in staying informed can help DACA recipients anticipate and prepare for any adjustments that may be required in their application or renewal processes.

Akula & Associates P.C.

For those in Dallas, Texas, seeking assistance with their DACA application or renewal, Akula & Associates P.C. stands ready to provide expert legal support. Our team understands the complexities of immigration law and is dedicated to helping you navigate the process with confidence. Contact us today at 17400 Dallas Parkway, Dallas, TX, 75287, to explore how we can assist you in securing and maintaining your DACA status. Let us be your partner in this journey, ensuring that you have the best possible chance of success.

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