Expanded DACA Filing to Start February 18

On February 18, 2015, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting requests for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) under the expanded program.

The expanded program eliminates the age cap of 31 and will now cover individuals brought into the U.S. as children regardless of their current age. Under the original program, only those who were under 31 years old on June 15, 2012 were eligible to apply. By eliminating the age cap of 31, the age of the applicant at the time of application would not matter so long as he meets all the other criteria.

The expanded program also moves the eligibility cut-off date when an applicant must have been in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010.

To be eligible, applicants must meet the following requirements as set forth in the expanded DACA guidelines: came to the U.S. before his 16th birthday; continuously resided in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 up to the present; was physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and at the time of making the request; and had no lawful status on June 15, 2012.

Also, they must be currently in school, graduated from high school or obtained general education development(GED) certificate, or honorably discharged from the Armed Forces; and not convicted of a felony offense, significant misdemeanor offense, or multiple misdemeanor offenses, and not otherwise a threat to national security or public safety.

An applicant must complete and sign Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, accompanied by Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, Form I-765WS Worksheet, and documentary evidence demonstrating their eligibility for the program.

The application must be submitted with the $380 filing fee for the Form I-765 and $85 for biometrics fee, totaling $465 in filing fees. The check must be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

After filing, the USCIS will schedule applicants for biometrics collection at a USCIS Support Center. Applicants will receive their schedule in the mail. An in-person interview may also be required for some applicants.

Unlike the original DACA program which granted recipients deportation relief and work permits for 2 years; recipients under the expanded program will get relief for three years. Deferred action under the program, however, does not lead to permanent residence nor provide lawful immigration status.

Over 610,000 have been granted DACA status under the initial program. An additional 270,000 immigrants are expected to benefit from the expanded program.

Meanwhile, twenty-six states have signed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Obama Administration from implementing the executive actions including the expanded DACA program. Republicans are also planning to undertake congressional action to block the President’s programs.

Immigrant rights advocates are confident that the President’s executive actions will survive lawsuits and congressional action aiming to block it.

The President, on his part, said, “I want to be clear as possible: I will veto any legislation that got to my desk that took away the chance of these young people who grew up here and who are prepared to contribute to this country that would prevent them from doing so.”

Immigrants are encouraged to apply for the expanded DACA program as soon as the application period starts.