What Is DACA?

What Is DACA?

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At The Law Offices of Daniel Shanfield Immigration Defense, PC, in San Jose, CA, we’re committed to providing our community with the latest information on immigration policies and how they may affect you. One of the most pivotal programs in recent years is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This policy has significantly impacted the lives of many individuals who arrived in the United States as children. Here, we’ll delve into what DACA is, its benefits, and the program’s current state.

What is DACA?

DACA is an immigration policy initiated by the Obama administration in June 2012. It was designed to protect eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States as children from deportation. DACA gives young undocumented immigrants protection from deportation and a work permit. The program expires after two years and is subject to renewal.

Who is Eligible for DACA?

Individuals eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program must meet the following criteria:

  1. Age Requirements:
    • Came to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday.
    • Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.
  2. Residency Requirements:
    • Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time.
    • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their DACA request.
  3. Immigration Status:
    • Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012, meaning they:
      • Were undocumented;
      • Their lawful immigration status had expired as of June 15, 2012.
  4. Education:
    • 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.
  5. Criminal Background:
    • 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.

These criteria are designed to identify individuals who were brought to the United States as children and have grown up and gone to school here, contributing to society. It’s also important for potential applicants to provide the necessary documentation to prove eligibility under these criteria when applying for DACA

Benefits of DACA

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program offers its recipients several key benefits, often called “Dreamers.” These benefits not only help the individuals directly involved but also contribute positively to the communities and the economy of the United States. Here’s an expanded look at the benefits of DACA:

1. Protection from Deportation

One of the primary benefits of DACA is the temporary relief from deportation. Recipients are granted a form of prosecutorial discretion that defers any action regarding their removal from the United States for the duration of their DACA status, typically two years, subject to renewal.

2. Work Authorization

DACA recipients receive work permits, allowing them to work legally in the United States. This authorization opens the door to better job opportunities, higher wages, and the ability to work in fields that match their skills and education levels. It also means access to legal labor protections and the possibility of contributing to and participating in the formal economy.

3. Social Security Number

With DACA, recipients can apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). Having an SSN expands access to banking, credit, and other financial services. It also allows for a clearer path to paying taxes, contributing to Social Security, and building a credit history in the U.S.

4. Access to Driver’s Licenses

In most states, DACA recipients can apply for a driver’s license. This is a step towards personal independence and critical for those whose work or family commitments require them to drive. A driver’s license can significantly enhance mobility, access to jobs, and the ability to meet daily needs.

5. Access to Education

While DACA does not provide federal financial aid, recipients can access state-level education benefits in some states, including in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. This makes higher education more affordable and accessible, opening up personal and professional development opportunities.

6. Eligibility for Health Insurance

In some states and under certain conditions, DACA recipients may qualify for state-funded health insurance programs. Access to health insurance is crucial for preventive care, medical treatments, and overall well-being.

7. Ability to Travel for Educational, Employment, and Humanitarian Reasons

DACA recipients may apply for permission to travel outside the United States for specific reasons, such as education, employment, or humanitarian purposes, through a process known as advance parole. This can be vital for personal growth, professional opportunities, or family caregiving responsibilities.

While DACA provides significant benefits and protections, it is a temporary solution, and the ongoing debate around immigration reform continues to highlight the need for a permanent pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

The Current State of DACA

DACA has faced numerous legal challenges and policy changes over the years. Its future has often seemed uncertain, with debates and litigation surrounding its continuation, modification, or termination. DACA remains in effect but is subject to ongoing legal battles and policy reviews. Therefore, potential and current DACA recipients must stay informed about the latest developments.

What Is the DACA Process in San Jose?

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process involves several steps designed to assess eligibility and grant deferred action to eligible undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. Here’s an overview of the DACA process:

1. Eligibility Review

Before applying, individuals should review the DACA eligibility requirements to ensure they meet all criteria, including age requirements, continuous residence, educational achievements, and lack of significant criminal history.

2. Gathering Necessary Documentation

Applicants must gather documents that prove their identity, their arrival in the U.S. before the age of 16, their presence in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, their continuous residence in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, their current educational status, and their clean criminal record.

3. Completing the Application Forms

The next step involves completing the required USCIS forms, which include:

4. Paying the Application Fees

A fee is associated with the DACA application process, primarily for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The total fee covers the cost of processing the EAD and biometric services.

ALERT: On Jan. 30, 2024, USCIS announced a final rule, published in the Federal Register, that adjusts the fees required for most immigration applications and petitions. The new fees will be effective April 1, 2024. Applications and petitions postmarked on or after April 1, 2024, must include the new fees or USCIS will not accept them.

5. Submitting the Application

Once the forms are completed and the necessary documentation is gathered, the entire package is submitted to the appropriate USCIS Service Center.

6. Biometrics Appointment

After the application is submitted, the applicant will receive a notice from USCIS to attend a biometrics appointment. At this appointment, USCIS collects fingerprints, photographs, and a signature to conduct a background check.

7. Awaiting a Decision

Following the biometrics appointment, USCIS will review the application and make a decision. This process can take several months. During this time, USCIS may request additional information or documentation (a Request for Evidence, or RFE) to make a decision.

8. Receiving the Outcome

Applicants will receive a notice from USCIS regarding the decision on their DACA application. If approved, they will receive a two-year grant of deferred action and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If denied, USCIS will provide the reasons for denial, but it’s important to note that there is no appeal process for DACA decisions. However, it may be possible to reapply or seek legal counsel for other immigration options.

Renewal Process

DACA and the associated work permit are valid for two years and can be renewed. The renewal process involves submitting a new Form I-821D, Form I-765, and the accompanying worksheet, along with the renewal fee and any additional documents that may be required to demonstrate continued eligibility.

Navigating the DACA process can be complex, and the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney can be invaluable in ensuring the application is accurately prepared and submitted, increasing the likelihood of approval.

How a DACA Lawyer Can Help

At The Law Offices of Daniel Shanfield Immigration Defense, PC, we understand the critical lifeline the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program provides eligible immigrants. Navigating the DACA application process, however, can be complex and intimidating. Here’s how a dedicated DACA lawyer from our firm can assist you:

1. Eligibility Assessment

Our first step is to assess your eligibility for DACA thoroughly. We review your immigration history, age, education, and any interaction with the law to ensure you meet the requirements of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). We aim to provide you with a clear understanding of your eligibility before proceeding with the application process.

2. Comprehensive Application Assistance

Filling out the DACA application requires precision and attention to detail. Our attorneys guide you through every step, ensuring that all necessary documentation is accurately prepared and submitted. This includes proof of identity, evidence of arrival in the U.S. before age 16, proof of continuous residence, and any educational or military records. We aim to make your application as strong as possible to increase the likelihood of approval.

3. Legal Counsel on Complex Cases

Some DACA cases are more complicated than others, especially if there are issues such as prior removal orders, encounters with law enforcement, or immigration violations. Our lawyers have the expertise to navigate these complexities. We provide specialized legal strategies tailored to address and mitigate any factors that could negatively impact your DACA request.

4. Renewal of DACA Status

DACA status is not permanent and requires renewal every two years. Our firm assists with timely and accurate renewal applications to avoid lapses in your DACA benefits, such as work authorization and protection from deportation. We monitor deadlines and help compile the necessary documentation to ensure a smooth renewal process.

5. Advocacy and Updates

DACA policies and legal interpretations can change, affecting your status and rights. Our attorneys stay abreast of all developments regarding DACA and advocate for your best interests. We inform you of any policy changes that may affect your case and offer guidance on navigating these changes.

6. Support for DACA-related Opportunities

Beyond the immediate benefits of DACA, our firm advises on how to leverage DACA status for educational and employment opportunities. This includes guidance on applying for a Social Security Number and driver’s license and exploring eligibility for in-state tuition rates and scholarships that may be available to DACA recipients.

7. Preparation for the Future

Understanding the limitations of DACA, we also counsel clients on potential pathways to a more permanent legal status in the U.S. Whether it’s adjusting status through family-based petitions, exploring employment-based visas, or analyzing other forms of relief, we’re here to support your long-term immigration goals.

Secure Your Future with DACA Support

Take the first step towards securing your future in the United States. At The Law Offices of Daniel Shanfield Immigration Defense, PC, our experts are ready to guide you through the DACA process. Whether you’re applying, renewing, or facing challenges, we’re here to help.

Contact us now for a consultation. Let’s navigate your DACA journey together.


What is DACA?

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a U.S. immigration policy that allows some individuals brought to the country as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit.

Who is eligible for DACA?

To be eligible for DACA, individuals must:

  • Have arrived in the U.S. before turning 16.
  • Have lived continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
  • Were under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012.
  • Were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time of applying.
  • Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012.
  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or are honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces or Coast Guard.
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Can DACA recipients travel outside the U.S.?

DACA recipients can apply for permission to travel outside the U.S. for specific reasons, including education, employment, or humanitarian purposes. This permission is known as Advance Parole and must be granted before leaving the U.S. Traveling without Advance Parole could jeopardize DACA status.

Can DACA lead to permanent residency or citizenship?

Currently, DACA does not provide a direct path to permanent residency or citizenship. However, it does offer protection from deportation and a work permit. Some DACA recipients may find other paths to permanent residency through family or employment-based visas.

How do you apply for DACA?

Applying for DACA involves filling out specific forms provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), including Form I-821D (Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization), and Form I-765WS (Worksheet). Applicants must also provide supporting documents to prove eligibility.

What happens if DACA is terminated?

If DACA were to be terminated, current recipients might lose their deferred action and work authorization. However, any changes to the program would likely be subject to legal challenges and might include a phase-out period. It’s important for DACA recipients to stay informed through reliable sources and consult with an immigration attorney for personal advice.

Can DACA recipients apply for financial aid for college?

DACA recipients are not eligible for federal financial aid, but they may qualify for state or college-specific financial aid, scholarships, and in-state tuition rates, depending on the state.

How much does it cost to apply for DACA?

The total fee for the DACA application, including the employment authorization document (EAD) and biometric services, is subject to change. Applicants should verify the current cost on the USCIS website or with an immigration attorney.

Can a DACA recipient work legally in the U.S.?

Yes, one of the benefits of DACA is that recipients can apply for and receive a work permit (Employment Authorization Document), allowing them to work legally in the U.S.

Is legal assistance necessary for DACA applications?

While it’s possible to apply for DACA without legal assistance, the process can be complex and challenging. An experienced immigration attorney can provide valuable guidance, help avoid common mistakes, and offer strategies for a successful application or renewal.

What does a DACA lawyer do?

A DACA lawyer specializes in immigration law, focusing on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. They provide legal advice, assist with preparing and submitting DACA applications and renewals, represent clients in immigration matters, and help navigate any legal issues that may arise during the DACA process.

Why should I hire a DACA lawyer?

Hiring a DACA lawyer can significantly increase the chances of a successful application or renewal. They can help:

  • Ensure Accuracy: Avoid common mistakes that could lead to delays or denial.
  • Navigate Complexities: Understand the nuances of immigration law and how it applies to your case.
  • Legal Representation: Represent you in any legal proceedings and communicate with immigration authorities on your behalf.
  • Stay Informed: Keep you updated on any changes to the DACA program that might affect your status.

Can a DACA lawyer guarantee my application will be approved?

No lawyer can guarantee the outcome of your DACA application or renewal due to the discretionary nature of the immigration process. However, a knowledgeable DACA lawyer can improve your chances by ensuring your application is complete, accurate, and presents your case in the best possible light.

How much does a DACA lawyer cost?

Costs can vary widely based on location, the complexity of your case, and the lawyer’s experience. Some attorneys charge a flat fee for DACA applications and renewals, while others may charge by the hour. It’s important to discuss fees upfront during your initial consultation.

What should I look for in a DACA lawyer?

When choosing a DACA lawyer, consider:

  • Experience: Look for an attorney with specific experience in DACA and immigration law.
  • Reputation: Check reviews, ask for references, and research their track record.
  • Communication: Choose someone who communicates clearly and keeps you informed.
  • Comfort: It’s important that you feel comfortable and confident in their ability to represent you.

How can I prepare for my consultation with a DACA lawyer?

To make the most of your consultation, gather all relevant documents, including any previous DACA application materials, educational records, proof of residency, and any criminal records. Prepare a list of questions or concerns you have about the DACA process.

What if my DACA application was previously denied? Can a lawyer still help?

Yes, a DACA lawyer can review your previous application to determine the reasons for denial and advise on the best course of action. This might include reapplying with additional documentation or addressing specific issues that led to the denial.

Can a DACA lawyer help with matters related to deportation or removal proceedings?

Yes, many DACA lawyers also handle deportation defense. If you’re facing removal proceedings, it’s crucial to seek legal assistance immediately. An attorney can explore all possible defenses and avenues for relief, including but not limited to DACA.

Will consulting a DACA lawyer affect my current DACA status?

Consulting with a lawyer will not affect your current DACA status. Legal consultations are confidential, and seeking legal advice is your right. An attorney can only help improve your understanding of your legal options and assist with your DACA needs.

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