The great state of Georgia is home to many undocumented foreign nationals who have been contributing to our economy, neighborhoods and local communities for several years. Unfortunately, these individuals’ lack of immigration status has largely prevented them from obtaining drivers’ licenses, joining professional organizations, attending college, and enjoying other benefits.
The good news is that the President’s executive orders will remove these barriers for a large segment of the undocumented population. President Obama’s planned executive action – which will be implemented beginning this month – will allow many foreign nationals to apply for much-needed immigration relief such as the temporary delay of their deportation proceedings and the ability to apply for work authorization.
The two segments of executive action that have received the most media attention are the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability commonly referred to as DAPA and the expanded program for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (called DACA).
Starting on February 18, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin to accept the DACA applications. Since this date is rapidly approaching, read further to learn more about the new expanded DACA program – and make sure to contact our office for additional information on how you or a loved one may qualify for DACA or DAPA benefits!
What is the Expanded DACA Program?
The previous DACA program, which the President instituted in June 2012, carried with it an age restriction for applicants and only provided for a two-year period of deferred action on deportation proceedings and work authorization. The new expanded program removes the age restrictions and welcomes foreign nationals of any age to apply. Additionally, the new program extends both the deferred action and the work authorization to three years.
It is important to note that applicants must still meet the other DACA eligibility requirements which include:
- Entering the U.S. before they were 16 years old
- Continuously living in the U.S. since January 1, 2010
- Possessing a clean or relatively clean criminal record that contains no felonies, no significant misdemeanors, nor three or more other misdemeanors
- Achieving a high school degree or a general education diploma; or being currently enrolled in school; or having received an honorable discharge from any brand of the U.S. armed forces or Coast Guard.
DACA Application Procedure
In order to apply for DACA, the foreign national must submit to USCIS the Form I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and the Form I-765WS Worksheet. These forms must be accompanied by supporting documents that prove the applicant meets the eligibility requirements outlined above, such as a copy of the applicant’s high school degree or school enrollment confirmation, a copy of the applicant’s criminal record showing no felonies or significant misdemeanors, and proof that the applicant arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 (proof of arrival typically comes in the form of passport stamps or ancillary evidence to show physical presence in the U.S. at that time such as bank account charges, Facebook posts, photos, etc.)
Along with the forms and supporting documentation, USCIS also requires a filing fee of $465 per application. In very limited circumstances an applicant may qualify for an exemption and will not be required to pay the filing fee. However, these fee exemptions are granted on a very rare basis and only after the applicant can demonstrate true financial hardship (which is another reason why working with an experienced immigration attorney during the DACA process can be very beneficial.)
To learn more about hiring an immigration attorney, contact our office today. We look forward to speaking with you!