USCIS to Begin Accepting Requests for Expanded DACA on February 18

by Joseph McKeown

Last November President Obama announced he was taking executive actions on immigration reform, after the House of Representatives failed to act on the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013. One of the president's initiatives involve expanding eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to applicants of any age who entered the US before the age of sixteen and who have lived in the US continuously since January 1, 2010, as well as extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two to three years.

US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has just announced it will begin accepting applications for this expanded DACA program on February 18, 2015, only weeks away, even as the Republican-controlled Congress heads toward a showdown with Obama over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, the mother agency of USCIS.

Who is eligible for the expanded DACA program?
Individuals of any age with no lawful immigration status who entered the US before the age of sixteen and who have lived in the US continuously since at least January 1, 2010. Applicants must also meet schooling requirements as well as not being convicted of certain crimes or posing a national security threat.

How is this different than before?
The first DACA program announced in 2012 requires that applicants have continuously resided in the US since June 15, 2007, and that they were under thirty-one years of age on June 15, 2012. Additionally the initial DACA was granted only for a period of two years.

How to file?
USCIS lists all the requirements including what documentation is required along with the necessary forms, fees, and where to send the application.

Is an attorney needed to file the case?
Matt Bray has an excellent post regarding this question.

When can the DACA case be filed under the new requirements?
On and after February 18, 2015! 

What authorization is received with DACA?
If the application is approved, individuals will not be placed into removal proceedings or removed from the US for three years unless their DACA is terminated. In addition, they will be granted employment authorization. Travel authorization (advance parole) may also be granted in certain cases.

USCIS cautions those applying for DACA to be especially wary of immigration scams. They've published a list of helpful tips for before and after filing to avoid scams and ensure that their case has been properly received and is processing correctly. Applicants for DACA cases (and in general for immigration matters) should be especially wary of anyone calling them about their immigration case and claiming to be from USCIS or the government.

Although DACA is limited in that it only defers removal and does not provide permanent lawful status, this DACA expansion is good news for many undocumented immigrants including one of America's most well-known and visible undocumented immigrants: Pulitzer Prize-winning Filipino journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who summarized DACA: “'This is not amnesty…It’s only temporary. It doesn’t provide a Green Card. It doesn’t provide citizenship. It doesn’t provide healthcare. It doesn’t provide anything really, except free from deportation, a work permit, people can drive, people can travel hopefully, and again just not to live in fear[.]”

UPDATE: US District Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas ruled late Monday, February 16, 2015 to temporarily block President Barack Obama's executive action on the expanded DACA program as well as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. Consequently contrary to their original plans discussed in this post USCIS will not be accepting applications February 18 for the expanded DACA program, and going forward until further notice for expanded DACA and DAPA. We will provide more updates as we receive them.