NOTE: This article was first published shortly after applications were first accepted for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
No one knows the answer to this question. Seriously. No one knows. I explain why no one knows in more detail below; but, the short answer is that you should not expect an immediate approval.
Immigration applications take time. For example, the best case for an adjustment of status (green card) application based on marriage to a United States citizen is about four to five months. Marriage based adjustment of status applications do require an interview, so it may be possible to receive a final decision on a deferred action application that does not involve an interview a little more quickly. Keep in mind, however, that a large number of deferred action applications are expected to be submitted in a relatively short amount of time and many deferred action applications will require the review of a significant amount of evidence, and these factors may result in it taking longer to receive decisions for deferred action applications.
Why does no one know how long it will take for a deferred action application to be approved?
There are several reasons why no one can tell you how long it will take before your deferred action application is approved:
- Deferred action is a brand new policy and the application process is brand new. It has never been done before. As a result, we simply don’t know how long it will take for a deferred action application to be processed and for a decision to be made.
- Many deferred action applications will involve reviewing evidence covering several years, if not decades. It takes time to go through all of these documents.
- No one knows how many applications will be submitted. It is practically impossible to predict how long the process will take when you don’t know how many applications will be submitted.
- No one knows when deferred applications will be submitted. Will there be a flood of applications in August? Will people wait until after the election to submit their applications? Will applications be submitted over a long period of time as people collect their supporting documents? The volume of applications received at any point in time will also impact the length of time it takes to receive an answer.
- There are concerns about people submitting fraudulent deferred action applications or fraudulent supporting documents. It would not be surprising if deferred action applications and the supporting documents are very carefully reviewed for signs of fraud or if the authenticity of documents is verified by the government. If this happens, it will take time to do this type of careful review.
What can you do to get the fastest decision possible?
First, do not believe anyone who tells you that they can “expedite” your application or get your application moved to the front of the line. This simply isn’t true.
What you can do is minimize the chance of any unnecessary delays by submitting a complete application that has well organized supporting documents that clearly prove that you qualify for deferred action. The stronger your application, the less chance that you will receive a request for evidence that asks you to send in more supporting documents. If you receive a request for evidence, you should expect that it will delay a decision in your case by several months.
More importantly, you should focus your efforts on getting your application approved. There is no appeal of a denied deferred action application. You basically get one chance to get it right. Take the time to submit the strongest application possible. Don’t aim for just meeting the minimum requirements in order to submit your application quickly. Instead, make sure that there will be no doubt that you qualify for deferred action when your application is reviewed.
You should consider discussing your situation with a qualified immigration lawyer before you submit your application. Not only can an immigration lawyer help you present the strongest case possible, but your lawyer can also help you identify whether you qualify for any other immigration options and can help you develop a long term immigration strategy. If you live in Idaho, you can request an appointment with me to assist you with your deferred action application. No matter where you live in the United States, however, you will likely be able to find a good immigration lawyer who can assist you with your application.