Skip to main content

How can DREAMers prepare for legalization?

There is plenty of optimism that some form of comprehensive immigration reform will pass under the Obama Administration, and accordingly, DREAMers who are eligible maybe able to legalize their status in the United States.  Obviously, a lot is still unknown, but I wanted to prepare the DREAMers for what is coming next.  The reason I say that you have to start preparing right now is because so many eligible DREAMers have not applied for DACA.  There are many reasons and I do not approve of those DREAMers who are risking deportation by waiting for DREAM Act and dealing with the paperwork just once rather than also getting DACA approval now.   It seems that there is yet another reason DREAMers not applying for DACA: application fee.  Apparently, for many DREAMers it is impossible to come up with even $465.  Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights' Director of Communications Jorge-Mario Cabrera is quoted by NPR as saying that 80% of DACA eligible applicants in the State of California are not applying because they are too poor to pay the application fee.  He adds that families with multiple kids are simply too broke to pay the application fee, even if they do not hire an attorney to do the paperwork.

All immigration benefits have fees:  It is very important for you to understand that approving an immigration application requires enormous effort and it has to be paid for by the federal government.  Since immigration is not particularly popular among lawmakers and public and while there is some support for legalizing undocumented immigrants Americans balk at the idea of passing on the cost to taxpayers.  It is almost guaranteed that the immigrants who want to live legally in the United States under whatever law is approved by Congress will have to pay for it.  In addition, it is very clear that there will be fines for living in the country illegally.  If you have not paid taxed one every dollar you have earned in the United States, you will also need to pay back taxes, along with whatever penalties and interest that IRS may assess.


So what will be the cost of legalizing status under DREAM Act?  The actual amount will be known only when the law is passed and USCIS provides all the details, but just to give you an idea, the cost of adjusting your status (by filing Form I-485) alone is $1070.  In addition, there will be another application for DREAM Act approval which may cost several hundred dollars.  There maybe a need to file a work permit application through I-765.  While your application is being processed and if you wish to travel, USCIS may also allow you to travel overseas using an advanced parole document.  And while I have been saying that if your case is straightforward you can apply for DACA without an attorney.  My advice for DREAM Act applicants would be to definitely have a competent lawyer because you want to get it absolutely right.  The legal costs with a qualified immigration attorney can easily run a few thousand dollars.  If you have to pay the penalty, the whole process could cost between $5,000 and $10,000.  If you have not paid your taxes to the IRS and State, you can estimate the back taxes and interest based on what you have earned.

How to prepare for immigration reform?  Like all those unfortunate people who are not able to take advantage of DACA because of their inability to pay, you are better off planning and saving now.  Indeed, many financial institutions and law firms may offer financing but the interest rates are typically very high, loans are not always available, many good law firms prefer only cash paying clients, and finding loans can slow down your application.  If you need to borrow from friends and family, you need to start talking to them right now, but in any case, think about setting aside money for the application.

Documents needed for applying:  Those of you who have applied for DACA already know how important it is to have your immigration file completed.  I was surprised that so many DREAMers did not even have valid passports, something that each one of you must always have.  Apparently, many DREAMers have been stuck waiting for their passports or other documents to arrive.  Don't let that happen for DREAM Act.  Start preparing by having your valid passport, birth certificate, documents supporting your education and residences in the United States, documents related to marriage if you are married, etc.  If you have been involved in criminal activities and court proceedings, make sure that you have every single piece of legal document.