Empowering undocumented young people in their pursuit of college, career and citizenship
STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR DREAMERS APPLYING FOR DACA Last Update: 02/28/2013 Please note: We'll be updating this guide as we get additional information, so please check back frequently. And let us know if you catch anything that needs to be changed.
STEP 1: Understand What DACA is and Why it was Implemented
Like other important policy changes, the DACA program was not a result of an overnight decision. It is highly recognized that DACA occurred as a result of many years of struggle and a movement led by DREAMers.
This is especially important to recognize when one begins to understand what DACA is. DACA is a temporary solution that is a crucial first step in the right direction. Because it is not a lawful status, like what the federal DREAM Act or immigration reform would provide, we encourage individuals to get involved and make sure the passage of a permanent solution becomes a reality.
STEP 2: Take a Deep Breath—Figure Out Whether DACA is Right For You
Relax, there’s time! It's important to learn as much as you can about DACA and figure out whether it makes sense for you to apply.
Here are some things you should be asking yourself:
Am I eligible for DACA?
Is now the right time to apply for DACA?
Given that DACA is a temporary, discretionary program that could be terminated or changed at any time, what are the risks to applying?
Do I have any longer-term immigration remedies to pursue?
To find out more information about DACA, we suggest you review USCIS's official FAQ section. You can also check out E4FC's detailed DACA FAQs (created with Curran & Berger LLP), which will help you evaluate whether DACA makes sense for you. Finally, you can review our guide (created with Curran & Berger LLP) Beyond Deferred Action: Long-Term Immigration Remedies Every DREAMer Should Know About.
STEP 3: Understand Your Eligibility for DACA
Once you've decided to apply, you'll want to confirm that you're eligible.
You can use E4FC's free, anonymous, and online DREAMer Intake Service. We’ll help you understand your eligibility for DACA as well as longer-term immigration remedies. Submit an intake form and you'll receive a response from us within two weeks.
STEP 4: Not Sure Whether You're Eligible? Get Legal Help
Confused about whether you're eligible for DACA? Have a complicated case (e.g. have a criminal incident, affiliated with a gang, etc.)? You’ll definitely want to talk to an attorney. You can look for an informational event in your area. We've also written some suggestions for how to look for an attorney.
STEP 5: Gather Your Application Documents
Confirmed that you're eligible for DACA? Great! Now it's time to start gathering your application documents.
First, carefully review the official USCIS instructions for gathering your pre-application documents.
Below is a summary of what you’ll need. DO NOT send original documents, as they will not be returned:
Two (2) passport-style photographs (for the Employment Authorization application) with your name and date of birth written on the back in pen
Copy of foreign passport biographic page and any prior visa & I-94 cards (if available)
Copy of original birth certificate and translation OR unexpired passport
Copy of every criminal and/or traffic court case on record (if applicable)
Every incident/arrest/police report. If you cannot get your record—eg. it is more than 5 years old and the police station records dept has destroyed it—then ask the police for a letter on letterhead saying that the record has been purged.
Every criminal complaint/charging document from the district attorney (or other prosecutor). That’s the court document a prosecutor first files with all of the charges against you and what they think you are potentially guilty of having committed from a single incident.
Every final criminal court disposition record. That’s the final ruling from the judge in your case stating the outcome after settlement or trial or dismissal; it should include your sentence and post-conviction sentencing information
Post-conviction showing that you completed all terms of probation/sentence. For example, if you are still on probation, it is something showing you are currently in compliance.
Copy of school records, such as:
Proof of Enrollment
Report Cards and/or Transcripts
School Identification Card(s)
Awards from high school (and college, if applicable)
Copy of high school diploma or GED certificate (if applicable)
Proof of entry prior to age 16, continuous residence in U.S. since June 15, 2007 and presence on June 15, 2012, such as:
Federal Income Tax Returns or Tax Transcripts (filed independently or as a dependent)
Employment records, letters from internships & volunteer work, medical records
Bank statements, credit card statements, copies of cancelled checks
Birth certificates of children and/or siblings born in the U.S. for the stated period
Affidavits from relatives, friends, teachers, and churches attesting to your presence
Photographs placing you in the U.S. since the age of 16 & since 2007
STEP 6: Gather Your Fees or Request a Fee Exemption
Fees: The fees for DACA are $85 biometrics fee + $380 work authorization document fee = $465 total. Fee Exemption (must be completed and approved before you file): You cannot apply for a fee waiver, but there are some very limited exemptions. There are fee exemptions for those under 18, homeless, in foster care, lacking parental support, with income less than 150% of federal poverty guidelines, who cannot care for themselves because of chronic disability, or who have accumulated very serious medical-related debt. There will be a separate fee exemption form, which must be approved before a DACA request can be filed without a fee. It is hard to know how long it will take to review fee exemption requests. Check USCIS for more information about these exemptions, and how to apply. Other Financial Assistance: If you need help paying the application fees, you can apply for money from the Fund for DREAMers.
More than $75,000 has been raised to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender DACA applicants. Find out more information about the LGBT Dreamers Fund here.
Many organizations have established lending circles for DREAMers, which are zero-fee, zero-interest credit-building social loans. Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco provides a $155 charitable donation and will loan DREAMers the remaining $310 for their DACA application. Check out Lending Circles for DREAMers.
Lastly, you can check out the Self Help Loan for DREAMers, which provides individual loans for up to $465. Individuals who obtain the loan can build or repair their credit with an interest rate of 15% APR, which equals to about $35 after 6 months.
STEP 7: Get a Consultation from an immigration attorney
Go to We Own the Dream to find a local attorney in your area. Click here to go straight to the online database that will help you find a low-cost non-profit organization around your area: Find Legal Help
STEP 8:Complete Application Forms
Individuals *must* file the following forms:
Form I-821D - Application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
Form I-765 - Application for Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
Form G-1145 - E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (you’ll want to paperclip this to the front of the Form I-821D)
STEP 9: Include Payment (Check or Money Order)
In the application package you mail to USCIS, it's preferable to include two separate checks *or* money orders: one for the $85 biometrics fee, and one for the $380 work authorization fee. If you plan to use personal checks, be sure there's enough money in your account. If either check bounces, your application will be rejected.
Checks must be made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." Do not accept abbreviate.
STEP 10:Confirm You Have the Correct USCIS Address
The address to mail your application will depend on your U.S. state of residence (i.e. California, Illinois, New York, Texas, etc.). On the USCIS website, check the section “Filing Addresses for Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” to find the correct mailing address on the Form I-821D. NOTE: USCIS will not accept any online, email, or faxed applications.
STEP 11: Copy & Carefully Assemble Your DACA Application Before You Send It
Write your name and date of birth the same way on each form: Variations in the way information is written can cause delays. For example, you should not write Jane Doe on one form and Jane E. Doe on another form.
Answer all questions completely and accurately: If If an item is not applicable or the answer is “none,” leave the space blank. To ensure your request is accepted for processing, be sure to complete these required form fields:
Form I-821D: Name, Address, Date of Birth Form I-765: Name, Address, Date of Birth, Eligibility Category
Provide all required supporting documentation and evidence: You must submit all required evidence and supporting documentation. These documents are required for USCIS to make a decision on your request. Organize and label your evidence by the guideline it meets.
If you make an error on a form, start over with a clean form: USCIS prefers that you type your answers into the form and then print it. If you are filling out your form by hand, use black ink. If you make a mistake, please start over with a new form. Scanners will see through white out or correction tape and this could lead to the form being processed as incorrect, and lead to processing delays or denial.
Copy/Scan Your Entire Application: Make a photocopy or scan of your entire application, including the checks or money orders.You may need to refer to your application again in the future (or show it to an advocate or attorney). This is especially important if the Dream Act passes, or if you become eligible to file for permanent status; you will want a record of everything you stated in your DACA application.
Label and Protect Your Photographs: On the back of your photographs, label in pencil your full name and date of birth. Place both photographs in a small plastic bag (like a sandwich bag) and paperclip (do not staple) them to front of your application (behind the Form G-1145).
Mail all forms together in one package. When you mail your application, we highly recommend that you select a delivery option that allows you to track your package. You will want to have proof the document was sent AND be able to see when it arrives.
STEP 13: Sign Up for E-Notification or Manually Track Your Paper Receipt Number Online
E-Notification Confirmation: If you fill out the Form G-1145, you’ll receive an e-Notification when your forms have been accepted (you’ll want to paperclip this form to the front of the Form I-821D) Paper Receipt Confirmation: Within 1-4 weeks of sending your DACA application, you should receive a paper receipt in the mail. We hope that all applicants will be able to track the online progress of their individual DACA receipts here and also track the general progress of all DACA applications’ processing times nationwide here.
STEP 14: Attend a Biometrics Appointment
Within four (4) months of getting your DACA receipt, you should get an appointment notice to visit an Application Support Center (ASC) to have your biometrics taken. Make sure to bring a valid (unexpired) government-issued photo ID (i.e. your passport) to your appointment.
If you want to change your appointment location to one that is closer to you, you might have that option. Your biometrics appointmet letter will provide you with the contact information to make the request.
STEP 15: Look Out for a Possible “Request for Further Evidence” (RFE)
Applying for DACA doesn’t require an individual interview, so you shouldn’t need to go to your local USCIS office for an interview. However, if anything is missing from your application, or if the adjudicating USCIS officer has questions, you may be mailed a “Request for Evidence” (RFE). You will need to respond to this RFE with additional proof by the deadline given. If you ignore this request, your case will be automatically denied.
STEP 16: Await Notification of DACA Approval
The processing time is different for each applicant. Currently it is taking anywhere from two to six months, but processing times will increase if the pace of application submissions increases. Once you receive notification that you have been approved for DACA, you will receive a work authorization card valid for 2 years.
STEP 17: Obtain Local and State Benefits and Understand your Rights as a Worker
Once you’ve received your work authorization card, you can apply for various local and state benefits. All DACA recipients will be eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN). Click here to find out how you can apply for a Social Security Number.
If you currently have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), you will need to rescind it after obtaining your new social security number. For more information about how to obtain a SSN and how to rescind your ITIN, check out LCLAA's Guide on Life After DACA.
In some states, you will be able to apply for an identification card or driver's license. In California, you can apply for an identification or driver's license through the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Remember that DACA is only a temporary, discretionary program that could be terminated or changed at any time. While you’re waiting for approval of your DACA case (or even if your case has already been adjudicated), we encourage you to investigate if you have a longer-term immigration remedy.
You can review our guide (created with Curran & Berger LLP) Beyond Deferred Action: Long-Term Immigration Remedies Every DREAMer Should Know About.
You can also use E4FC’s free, anonymous, and online DREAMer Intake Service. Submit an intake form.
We wish you great success in pursuing DACA and other long-term immigration remedies!
Please note: We'll be updating this guide as we get additional information, so please check back frequently. And let us know if you catch anything that needs to be changed.