DACA Alert — Don’t Forget to Renew Your Immigration Status!


By April Cockerham, Immigration Services Attorney

March 26, 2014

ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) recently announced the procedure some DACA holders will need to go through to ensure their status will remain valid after the initially-granted two year period.  DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was created through Executive Order in June of 2012, and allows individuals who entered the U.S. prior to their 16th birthday (and who meet a number of other criteria) to apply for temporary legal status and work permits. The status is only valid for two years, and the Department of Homeland Security has yet to fully clarify the renewal procedure after those two years are up. 

Last week’s announcement applies only to DACA holders who were granted their status within the first two months of DACA’s existence. This was the period before USCIS released the I-821D DACA form on which applicants now apply. During those first two months, applications were sent directly to ICE. On Aug. 15, 2012, the I-821D was released and applications were submitted to USCIS from that point forward.  Individuals who applied prior to Aug. 15 through ICE have now been instructed that there will be no way to apply for a simple renewal of their existing status. Instead, they must submit new I-821D applications as if applying for the first time, providing proof that they continue to meet all the relevant guidelines.

Further, and more importantly, ICE announced that this class of DACA holders will be eligible to submit their new applications 120 days prior to the expiration of their original two-year period. It’s vitally important that they do so as soon as they are eligible, because ICE also announced that unlawful presence will begin to accrue on the date of expiration of their original status – even if the new application is already pending at that time. To avoid problems with applying for future immigration benefits, it’s very important that DACA holders know when their status is up and are diligent about keeping it current. We have no indication from the government as to how long they will take to adjudicate these new requests, so you don’t want to wait until the last minute to submit the application and hope USCIS will act fast before your status expires.

I’ll post another blog entry as soon as there is an announcement about the renewal procedures for DACA holders who received their status after the initial two-month period. Hopefully, the process will be streamlined through a renewal application instead of having to submit entirely new packages every two years. With any luck, Congress will pass immigration reform and create a path to citizenship for all DACA holders, eliminating the need to address the renewal procedure.