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DACA Recipients Can Renew Online, Part of USCIS Shift From Paper

April 12, 2022, 5:40 PM

Immigrants seeking to renew their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections can now do so online.

The new online filing option for the DACA program, announced Tuesday, is the latest step that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is taking to adopt technology and transition away from largely paper-based operations.

The online filing option currently is only available for DACA recipients who are renewing their status, not initial applicants.

The program offers protection from deportation and work authorization to roughly 636,000 young, undocumented immigrants. DACA renewal applicants must file a separate employment authorization application, also available online, USCIS said.

The agency’s shift to online DACA renewals comes as the fate of the program itself remains in doubt, thanks to a 2021 federal court ruling that’s still going through the appeal process. Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas found the program unlawful because it didn’t go through a formal agency rulemaking process.

The Homeland Security Department is expected to finalize proposed DACA regulations this year that the Biden administration hopes will bolster the program against court challenges. It’s unclear when those regulations will be issued.

“The expansion of online filing is a priority for USCIS as we make our operations more efficient and effective for the agency and our stakeholders, applicants, petitioners and requestors,” said USCIS Director Ur Jaddou said in a statement Tuesday. “The option to file DACA renewal requests online is part of USCIS’ ongoing move to minimize reliance on paper records and further transition to an electronic environment.”

Thirteen USCIS forms can now be submitted online, including the DACA application, the agency said. The agency also has expanded a credit card payment pilot program to cover most forms.

But USCIS still handles most applications on paper. An internal watchdog report last year found that USCIS’s reliance on paper documents limited the agency’s ability to process benefits, even after offices partially reopened amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Kreighbaum in Washington at akreighbaum@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Laura D. Francis at lfrancis@bloomberglaw.com; Melissa B. Robinson at mrobinson@bloomberglaw.com