Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dealing with Delayed DACA Renewals

When the process for extending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was announced in early June it was met with a significant amount of excitement and anxiety.  One of several looming questions was with regards to how the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service would handle the increased caseload of I-821D and I-765 applications.  The guidelines provided by USCIS stated that, "if you submit your request more than 150 days (5 months) before your current period expires, USCIS may reject it and return it to you with instructions to resubmit it closer to the expiration date."  This requirement left many who initially filed and waited more than six months for adjudication of their DACA with some concerns.

It is recommended by USCIS that your DACA be filed between 120-150 days prior to the expiration of your current employment authorization.  Do not delay in filing it!  You should file it closer to the 150-day mark.  Recently, I have come across a handful of DACA renewals that remain pending close to a couple of weeks from the expiration of their current authorization.  Panic has set in as these individuals, understandably, do not want lose a job, face the risk of being out of work or unable to continue with college.  Therefore, I have compiled some tips (do's and dont's) that you should consider using if you only have 30 days or less remaining on your work authorization and your renewal has been pending more than 90-120 days. Remember that this is all a work in progress and these tips could be helpful on a case-by-case basis.  They are also subject to change if USCIS makes any tweaks to their procedures.

Do: Be vigilant! This is your livelihood at stake and do not let your ability to maintain a job lapse.

Do: Read over the DACA Frequently Asked Questions.  Yes, there are 81 of them.  But, there are some important tips and nuggets of knowledge within.  Question/Answer #49 provides some information regarding short-term extensions for delayed applications:

Q49:  When should I file my renewal request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)?

A49: USCIS strongly encourages you to submit your Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal request between 150 days and 120 days before the expiration date located on your current Form I-797 DACA approval notice and Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Filing during this window will minimize the possibility that your current period of DACA will expire before you receive a decision on your renewal request. If you have filed your renewal request at least 120 days before your deferred action expires and USCIS is delayed in processing your renewal request, USCIS may provide you with DACA and employment authorization for up to an additional 120 days.

Please Note:  USCIS will not provide any such short-term deferred action and employment authorization when USCIS is delayed in reaching a final decision on your renewal request because, for example: 1) of factors within your control (such as failure to file the renewal request within the suggested timeframe or filing an incomplete renewal request); 2) USCIS has not been able to complete your background check; and/or 3) your renewal submission contained evidence that you may not satisfy the DACA renewal guidelines and USCIS must send you a request for additional information or explanation.

Do Not: Use InfoPass at the local USCIS office to try and request that your application be expedited.  Our experience with the local USCIS information officers is that they do not know much, if anything, regarding the DACA process.  Obviously, this could vary from one office to another, but I recommend calling the National Customer Service Center hotline instead (1-800-375-5283).  Even if you take time to do an InfoPass it will have the same impact as making a phone call.  The local office cannot extend your work authorization or produce a new card for you.

Do: Call the National Customer Service Center hotline and make a request for a temporary DACA.  I have not seen a 120-day temporary renewal, but it seems that this request has helped in expediting the process in some cases.

Do: Consider the outside assistance of a congressional representative, if your representative's office is known to be DACA friendly.  You can find your representative's office location through the locator here.

Do: Consider the outside assistance of the USCIS Ombudsman's office.  I have not personally utilized the assistance of this office for immigration problems, since the Tucson congressional offices are extremely helpful with immigration-related problems, but that is an option to consider.

Do: If you have an attorney working on your application, make sure to remain in contact and have the attorney assist with trying to get the application expedited, if needed. 

Good luck and feel free to contact me if you feel there are other tips or information that you think should be distributed to the DACAmented masses.