Starting Wednesday, people who were illegally brought to the United States as children can apply to legally work in the country and hold off deportation for at least three years by signing up for President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The controversial policy was first announced by Obama in 2012, but he announced the expansion of the program in November, which includes eliminating the age limit and shortening the time from when applicants had to have entered the U.S. in order to be eligible. About a million immigrants are expected to sign up for the program, with another 4 million estimated to enroll in a similar program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. Registration for the DAPA program is scheduled to begin in May.
Immigrants can be considered for the DACA program if they fit a number of criteria, including:
• Came to the United States before their 16th birthday
• Have lived in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010 until the present
• Had no lawful status as of June 15, 2012
• Are in school, graduated from high school, received a GED or were honorably discharged from the American military or U.S. Coast Guard
• Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor (you can find a list of such crimes here) or don’t have more than three other misdemeanors and “do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.”
The DACA application hasn’t appeared online yet, but immigrants can check the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website here on Wednesday to get the form. If immigrants use the 2012 DACA form, their application will be rejected, according to the agency.
To prepare for the application, immigrants should get documents ready that prove their identity and continuous residency in the United States, according to USCIS. The agency won’t ask applicants for original documents, but they will need copies of their passport, birth certificate accompanied with photo ID, a national identity document from their country of origin bearing their photo and/or fingerprint, or similar documents with photos that they think may be relevant to support their case. Immigrants who want to be considered for DACA can also get on the agency’s email list for DACA updates here.
Along with applying for DACA, illegal immigrants will also have to fill out Form I-765, the application for employment authorization. This is the document to get a work permit, if eligible. The most up-to-date forms will be posted here.
The fee to apply for deferred action is $465 -- a $380 filing fee plus an $85 biometric services fee for fingerprinting and photo. These fees can’t be waived, according to USCIS.
As the DACA rollout nears, the government is urging prospective applicants to be aware of immigration scams. Immigration lawyers promising to fast track applications for a fee need to be avoided; there is no such thing as expedited applications, according to USCIS. You can check out other versions of scams surrounding DACA here.
For further questions about the DACA filing process, contact USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283.