During the past month, I’ve written a series of articles about how undocumented youth can get ready for the new deferred action program that will halt deportations of and offer work permits to young people who would be eligible for the Dream Act. This week, I will cover the potentially uncomfortable subject of money.
On August 3, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that here will be a fee of $465 for this program. That fee includes both the application for deferred action and the employment authorization fee. According to the agency, no fee waivers will be available, but officials have indicated that limited “fee exemptions” will be offered. Applying for a fee exemption will slow the application process since the exemption must be applied for, and granted, prior to filing the application for deferred action. We will presumably learn more about the fee exemption system on August 15, when the government begins accepting applications, but it is still hazy now.
In addition to fees charged by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, most applicants will need a lawyer or legal organization to prepare their application. Because the application form has not yet been released, we don’t know exactly how much work will be required, making it difficult to set a price. In my informal discussions with lawyers and legal service agencies, I have been hearing suggested prices ranging from $200 to $1,000.
If you’re a Dreamer, it’s important to talk to your family now to get the financial support you will need to apply for this program. By my estimate, unless you qualify for an exemption, it will cost you at least $665 to apply, and possibly much more.
My experience with other similar programs is that once you are granted employment authorization, your income will go up significantly. In a study more than a decade ago of Salvadorans who received Temporary Protected Status (TPS), CARECEN found that TPS recipients increased their income by more than $100 per week just six months after adjusting their status. Of course, no one can predict how you will fare in the job market after receiving authorization, but in this case, the result was generally positive.
CARECEN is offering free workshops explaining deferred action. Our next workshop is at our Hempstead office on Monday, August 13, at 3:30pm (91 N. Franklin Street, Suite 208, Hempstead, 516-489-8330). After that, we will hold another workshop at our Hempstead office on Monday, August 20, at 5:30pm (91 N. Franklin Street, Suite 208, Hempstead, 516-489-8330), and a workshop at our Brentwood office on August 21 at 5:00pm (2000 Brentwood Road, Brentwood, second floor, 631-273-8721). Also, I will offer a free workshop on Tuesday, August 7, at 7pm at the office of Centro Cultural Hispano (61 East Main Street, Oyster Bay).
Feature image courtesy of 401(k) 2012 via Flickr.