Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been a cornerstone of American immigration policy since its introduction in 2012. This program has provided temporary relief from deportation and work authorization to eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States as children.
However, DACA has faced some substantial changes over the past year. As we move into 2024, understanding the eligibility criteria and the renewal process for DACA is crucial for those it impacts.
DACA Updates in 2023
On September 13, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Final Rule unlawful, extending a July 16, 2021, injunction to cover this rule. However, the court allowed a partial stay for those who received DACA status before July 16, 2021. Current DACA and Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) remain valid until expiration or individual termination. USCIS will continue to process DACA renewals and accompanying employment authorization applications as before. However, while initial DACA requests can be accepted, they cannot be processed under the order.
This ruling means that:
- Current DACA recipients can continue to renew their DACA and related EADs.
- USCIS cannot approve new DACA requests or related employment authorizations.
- The court decision doesn’t affect the validity of current DACA and related authorizations.
- Individuals with pending initial DACA requests will have their cases on hold without USCIS issuing refunds for these.
USCIS will continue processing DACA renewal requests and associated applications for EADs and advance parole. The processing times for these applications may be affected, but USCIS aims to maintain its 120-day processing goal for renewals. The court orders do not impact other immigration benefit applications or petitions.
Employers should note that the court decision does not alter the employment authorization for current DACA recipients, and they should not request additional documentation from these employees.
Current Eligibility for DACA Renewals
Under the 2023 ruling, no one is eligible to receive newly issued DACA documents. However, anyone currently in the US who received DACA status before July 16, 2021, can continue to renew their status and related work authorizations under present laws.
DACA status and work authorization are generally valid for two years and can be renewed. The requirements for DACA renewals generally include the following:
- Previously Received DACA: To be eligible for a renewal, you must have been previously approved for DACA.
- Continuous Residence: You must have continuously resided in the United States since your most recent DACA request was approved.
- No Significant Legal Issues: You should not have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors of any kind. Additionally, you should not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
- Timely Renewal Application: The renewal request should be filed before the current period of deferred action expires, but USCIS recommends filing it four to five months before the expiration date. However, if your DACA has already expired, you may still submit a renewal request if it is within one year of the expiration date.
Renewal Process for Current DACA Status Holders
If you are currently in the US under DACA and meet the criteria listed above, you’re likely eligible to renew your status and work authorization. Here’s what the renewal process will look like:
- Start Filing Early: This cannot be emphasized enough: you must submit your renewal request between 150 days and 120 days before the expiration date on the current I-797 DACA approval notice and Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
- Submit Application Forms and Fees: You need to complete and submit the required forms (Form I-821D, Form I-765, and the I-765 Worksheet) along with the appropriate fees unless a fee exemption is requested and granted.
- Background Check: As part of the renewal process, you will undergo a background check.
- Fee and Supporting Documents: Pay the renewal fee and provide any new documents related to removal proceedings or criminal history.
- USCIS Review: Once submitted, USCIS will review the application and issue a decision. This may involve a biometrics appointment or additional requests for evidence.
If your renewal is granted, you will be permitted to remain in the US for another two years under DACA.
Professional Guidance for DACA Recipients and Immigrants in the US
DACA continues to be an essential policy for young immigrants in the United States. Staying informed about the eligibility and renewal processes is vital for those who rely on this program. We also recommend that you seek assistance from legal professionals when navigating the complexities of immigration law.
At Litwin & Smith, we can assist you with maintaining your status or pursuing a less precarious option for gaining your permanent residency in the US. Schedule your consultation with our skilled immigration attorneys to learn more about how we can assist you.