As of the writing of this article (May 23, 2014), USCIS has not released the form needed to renew one’s DACA status, but there are steps that an applicant can take to prepare.  Immigration authorities will require newer documentation of one’s physical presence in the US–that is,  applicants will need to show that they remained in the US since the time of the mailing of their last DACA application to the present.  In addition, people will need to pay $465, show “measurable progress” in their studies towards a GED (or their high school diploma) if needed, they will need to take their biometric fingerprints,  and they will need to present certified criminal court dispositions in the event that the applicant had been before a judge on a non-traffic and / or non-juvenile matter.  USCIS will ONLY accept renewals sent within the 150 day window of the work authorization or DACA expiration date.  It is important not to change the basic information originally listed on your first application (your date of arrival to the US, your legal name, etc.) when you are in the process of renewing your application for DACA.

Some people may be struggling to come up with the fee to renew their DACA status and may decide not to renew their application.  Given our experience with other programs that have involved deferred or temporary status, it is critical that people renew their status before it expires.  If not, the applicant will return to his or her previous, undocumented status and could be vulnerable to physical removal in the event of an ICE detention.  There are many affordable immigration attorneys and non-profit organizations that could help you, so please renew your DACA status.

Many people have asked if they need an attorney to apply for DACA or to renew their status.  For me, the answer is simple: everyone should at least consult with a good immigration attorney–not only for their DACA case, but also to see if you, or someone in your family, is eligible for some immigration benefit. Often, immigration attorneys can connect you with affordable, quality services that might help you on your journey towards legalization, including family attorneys, criminal defense lawyers, counselors, and the like.  In my own practice, I always screen each person to see if they are eligible for any additional benefits, such as a U visa, or if they are already US citizens through transmission of their parent’s or grandparent’s citizenship, or if they could otherwise gain legal permanent residency through other means.  If a person has DACA, for example, and travels with the permission of the US government through an Advanced Parole permit, they might be eligible to become legal permanent residents (LPRs) if they are married to a US citizen.

For those who are not eligible for DACA due to their age (they were over 31 as of June 15, 2012) or criminal convictions, there is hope!  I would strongly suggest that a person with certain criminal convictions try to hire a good criminal defense attorney and try for “post conviction” relief.  This means, for example, if you were wrongfully convicted due to ineffective assistance of criminal defense counsel, or because you did not understand the ramifications of pleading guilty, you may be able to reopen your criminal matter and re-negotiate your plea with the prosecuting attorney.  This is a complex process, and you should be careful NOT to hire someone who will merely “expunge” your criminal matter, as that will not be helpful (with the exception of  a simple, one-time drug possession conviction before July 14, 2011–please consult with an immigration attorney to see if your case applies.).

For those who were over 31 as of June 15, 2012, but who have proof that they entered the US prior to their 16th birthday, many people are advocating that President Obama get rid of this arbitrary age cap for DACA applicants.  The thinking is that “older” Dreamers should not be punished for being in the US for so many years; rather, they should be allowed to apply for DACA benefits as the main “qualifiers” for this benefit is one’s long-term presence in the US, a clean record, and the fact that a child under 16 years of age should not be punished for having entered the US as such a young age.

As such, even if a person does not necessarily qualify for DACA right now, it is not a bad idea to get one’s school transcripts, and to organize one’s proof of long-term physical presence in the US.  As always, if a person has a criminal issue, it is highly recommended that one seek out legal counsel–even before getting one’s criminal court disposition, as there might be a warrant for an arrest waiting for the person requesting the court document.  Who knows?  Maybe you qualify for an immigration benefit, and all you need to do is to consult with an immigration attorney who will fight for you and your family!

Feel free to contact our office for an initial consultation on your case, or for your DACA renewal at 818-541-9999.

Meredith Brown
Law Office of Meredith R. Brown
2013 Broadview Dr.
Glendale,CA, 91208