USCIS Begins Accepting Deferred Action Requests

The USCIS has released the forms for requesting deferred action and started accepting applications from DREAMers who are referred to under the policy as childhood arrivals.

The request is made on Form I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and is submitted with evidence that the applicant meets the key guidelines under the new policy.

The applicant must also submit Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and establish economic necessity by giving information on current income, annual expenses and total value of assets in the worksheet (Form I-765WS). There is no filing fee for Form I-821D but the applicant must pay the filing fee for Form I-765 which is $380 plus $85 for biometrics, or a total of $465.

The agency is predicted to be flooded with requests in the coming weeks. A research organization estimates that there are 1.2 million foreign-born individuals in the United States who are already eligible to apply for deferred action, with half a million more becoming eligible to apply in the coming years.

But although these individuals may be eligible, most of them will naturally weigh the pros and cons of applying for deferred action. They know, or ought to know, that deferred action is only a reprieve from deportation and does not lead to a green card or citizenship. They may be afraid of affirmatively requesting an immigration benefit after years of keeping their status a secret from everyone but their closest family and friends. Many of them are aware that since this new process is the initiative of President Obama, the elections present some uncertainty on the program’s future.

At the same time, these individuals know the tremendous advantages of being granted deferred action. They would no longer fear deportation during the period of deferred action. They would be eligible for employment authorization, which if granted makes them authorized to work and allows them to get a Social Security number and a driver’s license. They know that it paves the way for many other things, including a college education and a career.

The guidelines issued by the DHS as well as information campaigns launched by many organizations should help address their fears. For instance, the DHS has said that information in the request would be protected from disclosure from the agencies in charge of enforcement.

However, individuals who have a criminal history or who have committed fraud or misrepresentation should be particularly careful in deciding whether to apply for deferred action.

Someone who has had a brush with law enforcement should be cautious. For example, according to the guidelines a minor traffic offense such as driving without a license is not a misdemeanor under the process, but the applicant’s entire offense history would be considered to determine if his case warrants the exercise of discretion. On the other hand, if the traffic offense is driving under the influence, it is considered a significant misdemeanor and a conviction will disqualify the applicant.

But just because an individual has a criminal conviction does not necessarily mean that he should forget deferred action altogether because sometimes it is possible for a conviction to be expunged. The guidelines say that expunged convictions and juvenile convictions do not automatically disqualify the applicant. There might be a way for the individual to reopen the criminal case and apply for post-conviction relief.

Applicants should be careful in completing their request and accompanying documentation. The guidelines warn that applicants who commit fraud face possible criminal prosecution and deportation. With the assistance of a lawyer or a reputable non-profit organization, an applicant would be a lot less likely to submit inaccurate or incomplete applications and unnecessary delays would thereby be avoided.

Even though the application forms look easy to fill out and the guidelines simple enough to understand, immigration rules and procedures are complicated and the results of the filing could be serious and long-lasting.