April 17, 2014
In September of 2012 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began issuing work authorization cards to those that had applied through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program allows those who entered the United States without status to have action deferred in their case and receive a work permit valid for two years. Every two years, those granted DACA are required to renew their work permits as well as the grant of deferred action. For those who were the first to apply when the program was announced, their expiration dates are quickly approaching and USCIS has released preliminary information on how the renewal process will proceed.
The DACA program came into effect on June 15, 2012 through a presidential order signed into law by President Barack Obama. You may qualify for DACA if: (1) you were under 31 years of age on June 15, 2013; (3) you arrived in the United States before the age of 16; (3) you have lived in the United States since June 15, 2007 until the present time; (4) you were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012 as well as at the time of requesting DACA; (5) you entered the United States without inspection or you entered with lawful status that expired before June 15, 2012; (6) you are currently in school, have received a GED, graduation from high school, were honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or Armed Forced of the United States, or are currently enrolled in a GED program; and (7) you have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and you do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Those who applied as soon as the DACA program took effect, June 15, 2012, will be coming up for renewal of their benefits within the next few months. Many applicants as well as attorneys have been wondering how the renewal process will proceed since this is the first time that anyone will have to renew and the DACA program is one of a kind.
On April 9, 2014, USCIS released preliminary information regarding the renewal process for DACA recipients as well as those who are now filing their first ever application. USCIS will publish a completely new form to use both for new DACA applications as well as those renewing their status. This form should be available in late May. Therefore, anyone interested in renewing their DACA status will have to wait until this form is available in order to begin the process. For those who will be filing their initial DACA application, they can continue to use the current form. Additionally, it is extremely important that those wanting to renew their DACA adhere by the strict deadlines. USCIS advises that a DACA renewal request package be submitted approximately 120 days, or 4 months, before the expiration of the applicants current DACA. This date can be found on the USCIS receipt notice or approval notice on your case as well as on the employment authorization card itself.
USCIS has made clear that it will not accept any renewal applications earlier than 5 months before the current DACA grant expires. However, applications may be submitted at any time after that. For example, DACA renewals can be filed 3 months, 2, months, or even days before the expiration of the current DACA grant. It is important to note that the closer to the expiration date it gets the more likely that the individual will be “out of status” for a period of time. USCIS anticipates that it will adjudicate the DACA renewal applications well within the 120 days prior to the expiration of the grant but if you find that your current work authorization document expires before the new one is received you may want to speak to your employer as this could have consequences on your current lawful employment. Many times you will be able to show your employer that you have requested a renewal and continue to work during that time.
As of right now, USCIS will not require any additional documentation to be submitted with a renewal DACA application unless it pertains to removal proceedings or a criminal record. It is advised that you contact an attorney to help with a first time DACA application or a DACA renewal if there are any concerns about a criminal record, removal proceedings, or multiple entries and exits from the United States. These factors will not in and of themselves result in a denial of your DACA application or renewal. An experienced attorney can advise you of any risks involved in applying as well as explain any issues to USCIS in order to obtain a favorable result.