Whether you are a current DACA recipient looking to renew your DACA benefits or believe you may qualify for the program and would like to submit an initial application, this article is for you. We aim to provide a brief overview of the DACA program including the initial application and renewal process. Every situation is different with its own set of unique facts, therefore this article may not be able to cover the circumstance you are in. If you would like an assessment of your immigration situation and need legal advice regarding your DACA application, please consult an Oklahoma City immigration attorney.

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What is the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) program? – Oklahoma

DACA is short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, a prosecutorial discretion policy program that was put in place in 2012 by the Obama administration. What the program basically does is direct the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and USCIS officers to use discretion with people who meet the DACA criteria to defer the removal of such individuals. If such discretion is granted, the person is not considered to be unlawfully present in the U.S. during the period the deferred action is in effect.

If qualified, the DACA program will allow the recipient to live and work in the U.S. for two years, and it can be renewed for additional two years as long as the recipient meets certain criteria.

The program essentially protects certain individuals who were brought into this country without documentation, as a child, from being deported. Since such children likely accompanied a family member who entered the U.S. without inspection, they grew up undocumented and are in immigration limbo. Lack of legal status has prevented many young individuals from being employed in certain professions, traveling outside the country, applying for various governmental assistance programs, and the likes.

Currently, the DACA program does not provide a path to citizenship. However, it does allow the DACA recipient to work legally and live without the fear of deportation. This is crucial as many of the recipients grew up in the U.S., and consider this country their home but do not have any type of legal status.

Under the program, when an ICE, CBP, or USCIS officer encounters an individual who meets DACA criteria, they are directed to apply their discretion, on a case-by-case basis to prevent these individuals from being placed into removal proceedings.

What are the requirements for DACA? – Oklahoma

To qualify under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, eligible individuals also known as “dreamers” must satisfy the following criteria:

  • You must be born after June 15th, 1981 (or under the age of 31 on June 15th, 2012)
  • You must be under the age of 16 on your first entry to the United States
  • You must have entered the United States on or before June 15th, 2007
  • You must have continuously resided in the United States since June 15th, 2007
  • You didn’t leave the United States on or after June 15th, 2012 without a valid Advance Parole
  • You must be physically present in the United States on June 15th, 2012
  • You must have no lawful immigration status on June 15th, 2012
  • You must be currently present in the United States
  • You must be currently at least 15 years old
  • You must have graduated from high school, received a GED, or currently enrolled in school
  • You must not be 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

On July 2021 a U.S. District Court ruled that the 2012 Obama-era DACA memorandum is illegal, throwing a wrench in the program. Since completely uprooting the program would cause severe economic, financial, and social hardship to over half a million current DACA recipients, the court stayed its order pertaining to the existing DACA recipients as of July 2021, including those with renewal requests.

At the time this article is written, the USCIS is accepting initial and renewal DACA applications, but is only processing renewal applications. You can still submit the initial application and the USCIS may even schedule your biometrics appointment, but that’s where the process stops. Currently, the DACA program is tied up in court, and therefore its future is uncertain.

Can a DACA recipient travel outside the country? – Oklahoma

A current DACA recipient may travel outside the country while under an approved DACA status if he or she applies for and is granted a travel document by the USCIS. Such a travel document is called an advance parole (AP), and you may only be granted an AP if you plan to travel outside the country for one of three reasons: (1) Humanitarian purposes, (2) Educational purposes, and (3) Employment purposes.

Advance parole for a DACA recipient is only granted for compelling reasons, where the purpose of the international travel is visiting a seriously ill relative, attending a study abroad program, or work-related. If you are a current DACA recipient and are planning on traveling outside the country for leisure beyond the above three reasons, you may want to postpone or reconsider the travel plans – such travel may put your DACA status at risk.

Please note that traveling outside the country while under the DACA program without advance parole will automatically terminate the deferred action under the DACA program.

An advance parole document allows certain individuals, including DACA recipients to travel outside the county and re-enter legally without affecting their immigration status. It’s important to note that advance parole does not guarantee re-admission into the United States, and the final decision is made by the officer at the port of entry. You may want to consult with an immigration attorney if you are a current DACA recipient who is planning to travel outside the country.

What places can DACA recipients travel to? – Oklahoma

A DACA recipient may travel to any one of the 50 states and other U.S. Territories like the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico without having to apply for advance parole. However, it’s recommended to always carry the USCIS document showing the deferred status when you travel. That way you have the document handy if a situation may arise where you have to prove your immigration status.

If you plan to travel to any location other than one of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, you must have an advance parole document from the USCIS. Your DACA status will terminate if you travel outside the United States without advance parole, and you may not be re-admitted back into the country.

When can I renew my DACA? – Oklahoma

If you were previously granted DACA status and your DACA is expiring during the next 150 days, you may apply to USCIS to renew your status for another 2 years. Since the renewal time may vary based on several factors outside your control, it’s recommended that you file your renewal application 4 to 5 months before the DACA expiration date.

Can I renew my DACA after it expires? – Oklahoma

Yes, you may renew your DACA even after it has expired, however, you only get a one-year grace period from the date of the previous DACA expiration date. If it has been more than one year since the expiration of the last DACA expiration date, you cannot apply to renew your status. Unfortunately, in such a situation, you are not eligible to renew your status, and you must file under DACA initial request, which is currently not being adjudicated.

In addition to applying for DACA renewal within a year of its expiration, you must show that you continuously resided in the U.S. since the most recent DACA request that was approved, until the present time. Additionally, you must show that you did not travel outside the country since August 15th, 2012 without advance parole and that you have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanors, or three or more misdemeanors.

Can I hire an OKC Immigration Attorney to do all the DACA paperwork for me?

You do not need to hire a lawyer to apply for or renew your DACA application. However, an immigration lawyer can gather the details of your case, make an appropriate assessment, and recommend a proper course of action – making the whole process is done correctly, and therefore increasing the likelihood of success.

OKC Immigration Attorney: Immigration Lawyer in Oklahoma

If you need help with your DACA application, renewal, or advance parole application please call the law office of Vivid Niroula immediately. Mr. Niroula is an immigration attorney based in Oklahoma City, who has a solid understating of U.S. immigration laws. He takes pride in providing a client-focused legal service, is highly responsive and his fees are reasonable. Please contact Niroula Law by calling (405) 456-9250 or by filling out the Contact Us Form.