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The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was introduced by the Obama administration in June 2012 for certain undocumented young adults, who the President often refers to as “the DREAMers.” Between August 2012 and March 2013, more than 469, 000 applications had been filed, of which 52.3% were granted.  Here is a brief overview of the requirements and application process:
Am I eligible?
In order to apply for DACA, you must meet 5 criteria, which are (1) to have entered the United States before age 16 and be under 31 and have no lawful immigration status as of June 15, 2012; (2) to have been living in the United States since June 15, 2007 and physically present on June 15, 2012; (3) to have a high school diploma, be currently enrolled in school, or discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces; and (5) not to have committed certain crimes.
What documents do I need?
To be DACA eligible, you will need to establish the following: (1) your identity, through proof of identity and lack of status; (2) your presence in the United States, through the evidence of your arrival in the United States before age 16, your residence in the United States since June 15, 2007 and physical presence on June 15, 2012; and (3) your education or service in the armed forces, through evidence of enrollment in school, high school diploma or GED certificate or evidence of honorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces.
Consult with an attorney!
The application process is more complicated than it seems. We strongly recommend that you contact a reputable immigration attorney or nonprofit for advice regarding your application, particularly if you have ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime. Many nonprofits offer advice at little or no cost for these types of applications. For a list of some nonprofits and private attorneys in the Boston area, see www.harvardimmigrationclinic.org. Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) also conduct intakes with DREAMers. For more information, see http://e4fc.org/legalservices/intakeserviceoverview.html.
You will find all the necessary forms on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service website: http://www.uscis.gov/i-821D. These include: (1) Form I-821D, application for DACA; (2) Form I-765, for employment authorization; (3) Form I-765 WS, the economic need supplement form for employment authorization; (4) $465 mandatory processing fee; (5) Two passport-style photographs of the applicant; and (6) the documentary evidence discussed above.
Wait for your response:
The receipt notice for your application should arrive within 10 days and you should be called for a biometric examination within about one month of your application. Your decision may arrive within six months but possibly longer after filing the request. These times are only an estimate and wait periods vary.
My DACA application is granted!
DACA status opens many doors to undocumented young adults, including through work authorization, protection from deportation, and in some states, a driver’s license and in-state tuition. For further information on work authorization and other benefits post-DACA approval, see http://e4fc.org/images/E4FC_GOTDACA.pdf. DACA status is granted for two years and although a process for renewal is likely, it has not yet been established or guaranteed.
Next steps: Support the DREAM Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform!
A pathway to lawful permanent residence has yet to be established. The DREAM Act, which has not been implemented yet, proposes solutions for DACA recipients to qualify for lawful permanent residency. Until this legislation or some form of comprehensive immigration reform passes, DREAMers can keep showing their support for the DREAM Act and pressing for comprehensive immigration reform.
Reminder: Although the DACA application process appears to be straightforward, it entails disclosing information about yourself and your family to immigration officials. Therefore, a risk of being placed in removal proceedings must always be kept in mind, especially if the applicant has had previous problems with the law, whether criminal or civil. Again, we strongly recommend that you consult a competent immigration attorney or nonprofit before applying.
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