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Knowing the application requirements for DACA for the first time is key for those individuals who are considering applying for this program.

The immigration lawyers in New Jersey at Curbelo Law have helped hundreds of young people trying to apply for this immigration program. With the help of our attorney Carolina T. Curbelo, the chances of success are really high.

DACA Program application requirements in 2024

Applicants for the DACA program may be eligible if they meet the following requirements:

  • Came to the United States before your 16th birthday.
  • Were under 31 years old on June 15, 2012 (this means you were born after June 15, 1981).
  • Have been residing in the US continuously from June 15, 2007 to the present.
  • Have been physically present in the US on June 15, 2012 and at the time of applying for DACA at one of the USCIS offices.
  • They had no legal status on June 15, 2012.
  • They are currently:
    • At school.
    • In vacation programs.
    • Graduated and with a certificate.
    • With a general education development certificate (GED).
    • As an honorably discharged veteran of the US Armed Forces or Coast Guard.
  • Have not been convicted of any felony, significant misdemeanor, or more than three non-significant misdemeanors and do not pose a danger to American national and public safety. 

To apply for the DACA program, the applicant must be at least 15 years of age. However, if the applicant is in removal proceedings, they may be able to apply for this program before the age of 15. 

DACA Application Requirements Terminology

  • Felony: A federal, state, or local criminal offense that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.
  • Significant misdemeanor: It is a crime whose maximum penalty is one year in prison or less, but more than 5 days. In addition, it meets the following criteria:
    • It is a crime of domestic rape, sexual abuse or exploitation, possession or illegal use of firearms, drug trafficking or driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances.
    • If it is not a crime listed above, it is one for which the individual is sentenced to time in custody for more than 90 days.
  • Non-significant misdemeanor: The maximum jail time is 1 year or less but more than 5 days, as long as:
    • You have not committed any of the significant misdemeanors listed above.
    • The individual is sentenced to time in custody for 90 days or less.

Criminal laws sometimes intersect with immigration laws in what is known as “Crimmigration”. In our blog you will find extensive information on this term. 

What Is The DACA Program?

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program established by President Barack Obama in 2012. DACA provides temporary protection from deportation to young undocumented aliens who entered the United States illegally as children and who meet with certain requirements.

It is important to note that the DACA program:

  • It is not a path to US citizenship, nor is it legal status.
  • Does not allow you to leave and return to the US (without permission).
  • It is not a permanent solution.
  • It is a program established by executive order, so it can be withdrawn at any time.

Young people affected by DACA and the DREAM Act are often referred to as “dreamers.”

Are you facing deportation proceedings and don’t know what to do? Don’t worry, you may be eligible for cancellation of removal .

How To Apply For The DACA Program In 2024?

The application for the DACA program involves 5 steps to follow. These are:

  1. Determine eligibility. To find out if you are eligible for DACA or not, it is important to have the legal advice of a lawyer. This legal advisor will explain the benefits and risks of applying for DACA.
  2. Gather the necessary documentation. The second step is to collect all the documents required to apply for this program.
  3. Prepare the application. This step involves the completion of the forms required for the program. USCIS prefers that these forms be typed, but if necessary, they can also be completed in black ink.
  4. Mail the forms. In addition to submitting the respective forms, it must be submitted along with your application fee.
  5. Go to the biometrics appointment. The last step is to attend the appointment to take the biometric data.
what is tps status

The Deferred Action program is just one of several possible ways to avoid deportation. Therefore, a national foreigner may also be eligible for TPS. Check our article “what is TPS status” to understand this relief in more depth. 

Documents And Application Requirements To Apply For DACA For The First Time

The DACA applicant must submit the following documents:

  • Proof of identity or age: This can be a copy of a passport, a birth certificate with a photo, a national identity card, a school document, or an expired document with a photo issued by the US government.
  • Proof that you came to the US before the age of 16: Any document submitted must be dated and indicate that it was issued in the US. This can be a passport or a copy of the passport with the entry stamp .
  • Proof of continuous presence: Must be evidence of having lived in the US since June 15, 2007. Proof is not required for every day, but it is advisable to have proof every 2-3 months.
  • Evidence of physical presence in the US: This can be shown using the same documents that were submitted to prove continued presence. For example, utility bills, school records and others.
  • Prove that you have not had lawful status: If you entered the U.S. on a visa and it later expired, you must provide documentation showing that lawful status expired before June 15, 2012.
    • This can be shown by submitting an expired visa or any arrival and departure document, such as Form I-94, arrival/departure record.
    • If you entered the US without permission and never received legal status, you do not need to submit any documents. 
  • Evidence of criminal history: Any copies of tickets, police reports or court documents can be shown.
  • Evidence that you meet the education requirement: This can be shown through a copy of a high school diploma, GED, or proof that you are currently enrolled in an educational program.
    • At this point, diplomas, class schedules, school transcripts, or a letter describing which program you have enrolled in and its purpose are often required.

Considerations To Take Into Account When Submitting The Documentation

  • Do not submit original documents in the application. It is important to make photocopies and keep the original documents on file in case USCIS requests them. 
  • Make copies of all documents. When making photocopies, be sure to make two copies: One to include in the application and the other for your records.
  • Documents must be in English. Any document submitted to USCIS in a foreign language must be translated into English. Additionally, the date, name, address of the translator and the translator’s signature must be included.

An example of the message that the translator must direct to USCIS is the following:

“I (name of translator), certify that I am fluent in English and (the other language), and that the attached document is an accurate translation of the attached document entitled (name of documentation).”

Information Needed To Complete The DACA Application

In addition to the documents submitted, personal information must also be provided on the application requirements forms for DACA and an employment authorization. To this end, it is recommended that the applicant submit the following:

  1. All information related to your immigration history. This includes the date, place, how you entered the US, and whether you have been to immigration court.
  2. All names you used while living in the US (including any name changes).
  3. The address or addresses where you have resided since you arrived in the US.
  4. All information on any legal status you had before June 15, 2012, and if you entered with a visa, submit the date it expired.
  5. All information about your education, how, where it was written and when you finished or will finish your studies. 
applying for the daca program

DACA Application Checklist

Next, we will indicate which forms you must submit to apply for this program:

  • Form I-821-D, consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals.
  • Form I-765, application for employment authorization.
  • Form I-765WS, supplement worksheet.
  • Form G-1154, Electronic Notice of Application Acceptance (optional, but highly recommended).
  • Two identical passport-style photographs.
  • A check or money order for $495. This is paid to the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  • Substantiated documents, such as continuing trial evidence, criminal record and so on.
  • Presentation letter. It is optional, but can be useful for this process. 

The application requirements for DACA for the first time can be complex for certain national foreigners. Therefore, knowing how to become legal in the US if you are illegal can be very helpful. We invite you to read our article “How can an illegal immigrant become legal in the US”.

What Happens After I Submit A DACA Application?

If the applicant has met the requirements for DACA for the first time, once their application has been received by USCIS, the applicant will receive:

  • A receipt notice. This notice has two important parts:
    1. The application receipt number so the applicant can track their progress.
    2. The immigration case number (A number) beginning with the letter “A” followed by 9 digits. This number is the applicant’s permanent case with USCIS.
  • Letter for the appointment of biometric data. Through this letter, the applicant must go to a USCIS processing center to collect their biometric data.
  • Decision letter. Once the applicant has received and fulfilled the previous two points, this letter will indicate whether or not the applicant was approved for the DACA program. 
  • Employment authorization document. If the applicant is approved, they will receive an EAD work permit.

If the applicant lacks evidence for their application, they may receive an evidence request letter requesting that they provide additional documents needed for the case. 

If this occurs, it is important that all documentation is gathered as quickly as possible. 

illegal immigrants with daca

What Happens After The DACA Application Has Been Approved?

If the application for the DACA program has been approved, the applicant will obtain the following:

  • Employment card. The applicant may be eligible to apply for a Social Security Number. 
  • Possibility of renewal. DACA recipients can renew their case every 2 years. It is recommended that the renewal application be submitted 5 months before the employment authorization application expires.
  • Possibility of identification. In some states, DACA recipients can apply for a state ID card and driver’s license. In addition, they can also receive health care and other state benefits.
  • Eligibility for a travel permit. DACA recipients may be eligible to apply for a travel permit if they wish to leave the US and travel abroad.

There are currently pending court cases with the DACA program, which may affect who can apply for this program and what benefits are available to them. 

Applicants who wish to travel outside the US must file with USCIS Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. If they travel without first receiving this permission, USCIS will automatically terminate their DACA.

What Can I Do If My DACA Application Has Been Denied?

If an individual is denied DACA, they should contact an immigration attorney to help them understand why their application was not approved. 

In addition, thanks to a lawyer it is possible that when you submit another application, you have a better chance of being accepted. Applicants should note the following:

  • Keep a copy of everything that is sent to USCIS. This includes the receipt notices, the biometrics appointment, any additional evidence requests, and the decision letter issued by USCIS.
  • Rejection is not the same as denial. There is a difference between a rejection and a denial by USCIS. These are:
    • Denial: USCIS finds the applicant ineligible for the DACA program. Denials are usually due to the applicant not submitting sufficient evidence or being ineligible based on their background.
    • Rejection: The applicant’s processing was incomplete. This means that the applicant forgot to complete a section of the application or did not make the payment correctly.
appeal immigration decision

Applicants should note that if their request for Deferred Action is denied, they cannot appeal. However, some other immigration cases can be appealed. Learn how you can appeal an immigration decission in our respective article.

How Can I Renew The DACA Program?

The DACA renewal requires the submission of the 3 forms: I-821D, I-765 and I-765W. In addition, they must submit these forms with their respective fee of $495 plus a copy of their EAD (front and back).

DACA renewal does not require submitting all the documents that were submitted in the original application. However, if the applicant has new receipts where something has changed, they must submit them.

The DACA program may allow recipients to obtain a work permit, but those who do not qualify will not be able to work in the US. Find out if it is possible to get a job in the US while remaining illegally in our publication. 

Can I Be Eligible For A Fee Waiver?

There is a limited fee waiver for DACA. To do so, a letter and supporting documentation must be submitted to USCIS showing that the applicant meets the requirements for a waiver.

To learn more about this, we invite you to contact the Curbelo Law office.

Recommendations For Applying For DACA For The First Time

DACA applicants should keep the following tips in mind before applying for this program:

  • All documents must be translated into English.
  • You must keep your passport from your home country if you are leaving the US.
  • No blank space should be left. Therefore, the request must be carefully reviewed or it may be cancelled. 
  • Do not let too much time pass between the submission of one document and another.
  • The application package must be sent by DHL, UPS or FedEx as they are usually the fastest and most reliable courier services.

You should be aware that DACA applicants can request a review with USCIS. To do so, they must meet all the requirements for the program and believe that USCIS denied their petition due to a clerical error.

Immigration Attorney For DACA In New Jersey

DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals application requirements can be somewhat complex to process for those aliens who are not very used to carrying out immigration procedures. You must also be familiar with the requirements to apply for DACA for the first time, as we have mentioned in the article.

Therefore, it is recommended that all applicants hire an immigration attorney to assist them.

There are many individuals who wish to receive this benefit, but legal mismanagement or little information can keep that individual out of the benefits of this program. Curbelo Law has more than 10 years helping immigrants in situations like these.

You can call the Curbelo Law firm or send us an email today to make us aware of the facts surrounding your case.