The Trump administration announced on September 5, 2017, that it was rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This announcement created a great deal of uncertainty for the nearly 600,000 young people who had been able to live and work in the United States legally under DACA.

One question that has been asked frequently since then is whether DACA recipients can still apply for a green card. The answer is yes, but it is important to understand that the process will differ for everyone.

What is DACA?

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals(DACA) is a policy that was established in 2012 by the Obama administration. It protects undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation. DACA provides temporary protection and work permits to individuals brought to the United States as children before 2007.

The program has enabled roughly 830,000 eligible young adults to attend school, work lawfully, and plan their lives without the constant threat of deportation-often to an unfamiliar country.

DACA recipients, also known as "Dreamers," are currently protected from deportation and can apply for work permits. However, on July 16, 2021, a ruling was made to partially end the DACA program. Based on this ruling, the USCIS may accept first-time applications. Still, the ruling prevents it from processing or approving them. So, if you decide to submit a first-time application, you won't receive a response on your application or get a refund for the $495 application fee.

If you have any pressing questions about submitting a first-time application, you should talk to a qualified immigration attorney. A lawyer can assess your case and help you figure out the best path forward.

With that in mind, here is everything you need to know about green card applications for DACA recipients.

Can I Renew My DACA Status?

Yes, you can renew your DACA status. As of April 12, 2022, The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that DACA renewals could be filed online. The USCIS recommends submitting a DACA renewal application between 120 and 150 days before the current one expires. If it's been over a year since your DACA expired, your request will be considered an initial request and won't be accepted. Judge Hanen, in 2021, ruled that USCIS can no longer grant first-time initial DACA applications.

How Much Does it Cost to Apply for DACA?

The initial application fee for DACA is $495. This includes a $410 filing fee for Form I-821D and Form I-765 and an $85 biometrics fee. The biometrics fee covers the cost of having your fingerprints and photo taken. When you file for your renewals online, you'll have the option to pay through bank account withdrawals, prepaid cards, debit cards, or credit cards. You'll need a USCIS online account to file these forms, make payments and track your application's status.

What are the Requirements for DACA?

To qualify for DACA, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Must have been brought to the US before the age of 16
  • Must have lived in the country continuously from June 15, 2007, to the present time
  • Must have graduated from high school or be currently enrolled in school
  • Must have had no lawful status on June 15, 2012
  • You must have been physically present in the US on June 15, 2012, when you were applying for DACA.
  • Cannot have any felony convictions or significant misdemeanours on their records
  • must be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States

Can DACA Recipients Apply for a Green Card?

The DACA program doesn't offer a pathway to permanent legal status or citizenship. However, DACA recipients can apply for a green card if they meet the lawful entry requirement. In this case, they may be eligible for employment-based, family-based, and humanitarian green cards. Lawful entry means that the immediate relatives entered the US with an advance parole travel document or valid visa as inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer.

You will need to adjust your status through consular processing if you don't have a lawful entry. This involves leaving the United States and applying for an immigrant visa at a US consulate or embassy abroad. This creates another challenge, as you could be barred from reentry if you unlawfully lived in the US for at least six months.

With a green card, DACA recipients can apply for naturalization and enjoy all the perks of being a US citizen. These include voting, receiving benefits like Social Security, college financial aid, or food stamp from the federal government, and even running for office.

Can DACA Recipients get Family-Based Green Cards?

Yes, DACA holders can get a family-based green card if they have an immediate relative who is a US citizen or a green card holder. An immediate relative is defined as a spouse, child, or parent. The key here is that the relationship must be legitimate and not entered into to get a green card. Marriage is a common way most DACA recipients transition from DACA to a green card. USCIS allows DACA recipients to apply for a marriage green card if their spouse is a US citizen or green card holder.

Can my Employer Sponsor me for a Green Card if I Have DACA?

Yes, US employers can sponsor you for a green card if they are willing to file an employment-based visa petition on your behalf. But the process still needs you to return to your country because of your out-of-status condition or unlawful entry. However, this can work if you're under the Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act (245(i)) protection. An immigration lawyer can help you determine your protection status and eligibility.

Can DACA Recipients get Humanitarian Green Cards?

DACA recipients can get a humanitarian green card if they meet the eligibility requirements. This includes victims of human trafficking and family members of such victims. You can also get a green card through programs like:

  • Refugee program - You must be outside your country of origin and have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
  • Asylum program - You must be physically present in the US and be able to show that you're unable or unwilling to return to your country of origin because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

In all these, you must not be involved in any activity preventing you from asylum or refugee program.

Can Undocumented Immigrants Apply for Asylum?

Yes, undocumented immigrants can apply for asylum in the United States. To be eligible for asylum, an immigrant must meet certain criteria set forth by federal law. These criteria include demonstrating that they have suffered past persecution or have a well-founded fear of future persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

In addition to meeting specific legal requirements, undocumented immigrants must be able to provide credible evidence and testimony supporting their claim of asylum. This might include official documentation of mistreatment in their home country and witness statements or other relevant documentation supporting their claim.

Pursuing asylum can be a lengthy and challenging process. However, with the support of lawyers familiar with the legal system and immigration law, there is hope that these individuals can find a haven in the United States.

How to Become a US Citizen

There are two main ways to become a US citizen: by birth or naturalization. Those born in the United States automatically gain citizenship at birth, regardless of their parents' nationality or immigration status. Those who are not born in the United States may become citizens through the process of naturalization. This involves meeting certain eligibility requirements and completing a lengthy application process that typically includes a written exam, an interview, and a civics test.

Whether you were born here or chose to earn your citizenship through naturalization, both routes offer many benefits, including the right to travel freely within the country and vote in national elections.

DACA Path to Citizenship Through Marriage

The DACA path to citizenship through marriage is a relatively straightforward process that requires applicants to meet several eligibility requirements.

  1. Applicants must be married to US citizens for at least three years to qualify for this pathway.
  2. They must have been a permanent resident for at least two years.
  3. They must establish that their marriage is legitimate and not just a sham arrangement created for immigration purposes. To do so, they will usually need to submit evidence such as joint bank accounts, joint lease agreements, or proof of shared household expenses.
  4. Other common requirements include a permanent resident status and good moral character.

If you're eligible, you can apply for citizenship by filing Form N-400 with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through the status adjustment process.

DACA Marrying Lawful Permanent Resident

While DACA recipients can marry anyone, a recent study by the Migration Policy Institute found that they're highly likely to settle with a lawful permanent resident compared to an average US citizen. The study analyzed data from US Census Bureau's American Community Survey. In the survey that analyzed 27,000 DACA recipients, 9% had married a lawful permanent resident. In contrast, only 6% of all US citizens settled with a lawful permanent resident.

DACA to Green Card Through Marriage Timeline

The DACA to a green card through marriage timeline can vary widely depending on several factors. For example, the length of your marriage, your spouse's immigration history, and the current immigration regulations all play an important role in determining how long it will take to obtain permanent residency through a green card. However, generally, it can take anywhere from 3-5 years to go from having DACA status to becoming a legal permanent resident through marriage. Here's what the timeline looks like:

  1. It begins with the applicant checking their eligibility for the program.
  2. If eligible, they will need to apply for DACA to get a work permit and be protected from deportation.
  3. Stay in the country while the application is pending
  4. Marry a US citizen
  5. Apply for a green card through marriage
  6. Get a green card and live in the US

DACA Last Name Change After Marriage

DACA recipients are required to change their last names after they get married. You can submit your name change request to USCIS.

Our Attorneys

The immigration process is notoriously complex, and even small missteps can have serious consequences. This is especially true for those seeking citizenship through naturalization or adjustment of status.


Our law firm has a team of experienced immigration attorneys who can help you navigate the process and ensure that your application is complete and accurate. We understand this process's importance and will work diligently to help you obtain the outcome you're hoping for.

If you're interested in learning more about our services, please contact us today. We would be happy to answer any questions and provide you with a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible for Employment Authorization If My Removal is Deferred Under the DACA Final Rule?

Yes. You may get your employment authorization from USCIS if you obtain DACA under the DACA final rule. But you'll have to showcase an economic need for employment.

Does marrying a US citizen automatically guarantee a green card if you are a DACA recipient?

If you marry an American citizen, you'll have the right to file an I-485 application to adjust your status and obtain a green card. However, you'll still need to meet all the other eligibility requirements for a green card through marriage.

What is the difference between a DACA recipient and an undocumented immigrant?

A DACA recipient is an undocumented immigrant who has been granted deferred action from deportation. An undocumented immigrant is someone who is in the United States without authorization from the government.

Will Getting Married Affect My DACA?

If you are a DACA recipient, getting married will not affect your status. However, it does provide a pathway to obtain a green card.