• USCIS to Accept Expanded DACA Requests Beginning February 18
  • April 13, 2015
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • Beginning February 18, undocumented individuals of any age will be able to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for benefits under the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program.

    The revised DACA program expands the pool of eligible applicants by removing age caps and shortening residence requirements. It also extends the duration of relief from removal and of employment authorization. Similar benefits are expected to be made available to the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents in mid- to late May, under the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program.

    Who Is Eligible for Expanded DACA?

    Under the expanded DACA program, individuals with no lawful immigration status are eligible to apply for deportation relief and employment authorization if they:
    • Entered the United States before the age of 16;
    • Lived in the United States continuously since at least January 1, 2010 (previously June 15, 2007);
    • Are of any age (previously, there was an age cap of 31);
    • Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
    • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
    Application Process

    When the application period opens, applicants must submit USCIS Form I-821D, as well as Form I-765 application for employment authorization, Form I-765WS worksheet showing that they have an economic need to work, and documentation of their eligibility for deferred action. Applications are filed at the USCIS lockbox facility with jurisdiction over their place of residence. The filing fee for deferred action applications is $465.

    After the application package is filed, applicants will be required to appear at a USCIS Application Support Center for biometrics collection. Some applicants may be required to attend an in-person interview as part of the adjudication process.

    Expanded DACA Benefits

    Those granted deferred action under the expanded DACA program will receive removal relief and employment authorization for a period of three years, up from two years previously. However, deferred action does not grant any temporary or permanent immigration status, nor does it provide a path to permanent residence.

    What This Means for Foreign Nationals and Employers

    Foreign nationals should be aware that the expansion of DACA could be delayed because of a pending federal lawsuit that seeks to block the Obama Administration from carrying out executive actions on immigration. The plaintiffs - 26 U.S. states - have asked the judge to temporarily enjoin the administration from taking any steps on executive action, including the DACA expansion, while the lawsuit is ongoing. The judge’s decision is expected soon. If a temporary injunction is issued, the Administration is likely to appeal, but DACA applications could be suspended in the interim.

    Once the expanded DACA program is implemented, the anticipated high volume of applications could cause delays in the processing of employment authorization documents for other case types - notably, EAD renewals for foreign nationals with pending adjustment applications.