How to Transfer from DACA to a Green Card

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on August 14, 2023
At a Glance: Yes, DACA recipients can apply for citizenship in certain circumstances, such as through marriage to a U.S. citizen. There are two main paths to transition from DACA status to a Green Card: consular processing and adjustment of status. Consular processing involves applying for an immigration visa (Green Card) at a U.S. consulate or embassy in a foreign country, while adjustment of status can be done within the U.S. by fulfilling eligibility requirements and filing an application. Both processes require establishing eligibility, getting the necessary approvals, attending appointments, and waiting for the Green Card. It’s important to understand the specific requirements and procedures for each path.

Dreamers are in the U.S. because their parents came to America illegally with the American Dream in mind and brought them along. Without DACA, Dreamers would be deported as they technically have no legal basis to be in the U.S. With DACA, they are allowed to stay in the U.S. and also allowed to work. But, can you go from DACA to Green Card? What are your options in the future to make your life in the U.S. more permanent? Let’s take a look!

Can a DACA Recipient Apply for Citizenship?

Yes, in certain circumstances DACA recipients can get Green Cards. You just need to comply with the eligibility criteria we explain below.

Even though you can get a work permit, driver’s license, and a social security number with DACA, having DACA still has its challenges. For example, many Dreamers find it difficult to get DACA car loans.

Getting a Green Card has a lot of advantages. Unlike DACA, a Green Card does not, for example, have to be renewed every two years. It grants you the right to live and work in the U.S. on a more permanent basis. Even though there are DACA loans available out there, you will probably find it a lot easier to apply for financial services and loans if you have a Green Card.

So, let’s take a look at how you can transition from DACA to Green Card through marriage.

Two Ways to Transition from DACA to Green Card Through Marriage

Generally speaking, there are two main paths to move from DACA status to a Green Card:

  • Consular Processing
  • Adjustment of Status

Below, we take a closer look at each of these processes.

DACA to Green Card Through Consular Processing

For this type of status change, you need to apply for your immigration visa (Green Card) at a U.S. consulate or embassy in a foreign country. This is the best option for applicants who have not yet gotten a legal entry into the U.S.

Follow these steps to go from Data to Green Card through consular processing:

  1. Establish eligibility
  2. Get an I-130 petition approved
  3. Get your visa number from your NVC
  4. Apply for an immigrant visa
  5. Attend consular processing
  6. Enter the U.S.

Read on for a more detailed look at the process.

Establish Eligibility

By being married to a U.S. citizen you are automatically eligible. You just need a valid proof of your marriage.

Get an I-130 Petition Approved

You need to complete and file an I-130 petition with the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). Your spouse is the petitioner and you are the beneficiary. You will receive an I-797 Notice of Action in the mail once it is approved.

Get Your Visa Number from the NVC

The National Visa Center (NVC) will notify you as soon as there is a visa number for your I-797. The good news is there are an unlimited amount of visas for petitions based on immediate relatives (a U.S. citizen spouse).

Apply for an Immigrant Visa

The NVC will notify you when you can submit your immigrant visa processing fees, visa application, and supporting documentation. You will complete and submit a Form DS-260. Your spouse may also be required to submit a form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) in which they promise to support you if you are not able to do so yourself.

Attend Consular Processing

Once everything is submitted and received, the consular office will schedule a meeting with you (the beneficiary) to decide the outcome of your application. You will receive a Visa Packet once you have been approved.

Enter the U.S.

You may cross the border with your Visa Packet. The border officer will allow you entry as a permanent resident once you’ve been cleared to enter. Your Green Card will be mailed to your registered U.S. address.

Be patient during this process. It can take up to 12 months to get a successful outcome.

DACA to Green Card Through Adjustment of Status

You can perform adjustment of status within the U.S. borders if you are already in the U.S. It’s important that you maintained your DACA status throughout your time here.

Follow these steps to go from DACA to Green Card through an adjustment of status:

  1. Establish eligibility
  2. Fulfill eligibility for Adjustment of Status
  3. File your application
  4. Attend immigration appointments
  5. Wait for your Green Card

Establish Eligibility

To apply for Adjustment of Status, you will need a valid proof of your marriage to a U.S. citizen spouse to submit with your application.

Fulfill Eligibility for Adjustment of Status

You must be physically present in the U.S., you need to make a lawful entry into the U.S., and have an approved and current I-130 petition.

File Your Application

As part of your application process, you will also need to file the I-130 application with USCIS.

Attend Immigration Appointments

The USCIS will inform you via mail about a biometric screening appointment. They take your photo, fingerprints, and signature at this appointment to perform a mandatory criminal background check. A few months later, you and your spouse need to attend an interview where the submitted information of the I-130 petition is verified. The USCIS will sometimes waive the necessity for the last appointment.

Wait for Your Green Card

Once all information has been approved the USCIS will mail your Green Card to your registered address.

In all, the above process can take up to 12 months.

INA 245(a) for DACA

As a Dreamer, you will probably have heard about INA 245(a) before. Put simply, this is the piece of legislation that enables you to go from DACA to Green Card.

Generally, a person who has lived in the U.S. unlawfully (such as Dreamers) must spend a prescribed period of time outside of the U.S. before they are allowed to re-enter lawfully and apply for immigrant visas. But, under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 245(a), having a lawful entry into the U.S. as a Dreamer can waive the period you would originally be barred from entering.

Requirements for DACA to Green Card Applicants Married to U.S. Citizen

To make things a little simpler we’ll explain some of the requirements listed above. So, let’s take a look at the basic requirements for a Dreamer to get a Green Card.

Legal Entry

Your first entry into the U.S. when you came with your parents was unlawful. You need to make a lawful entry based on an exit for one of the three reasons:

  • Humanitarian reasons – a medical appointment (a dental appointment will suffice)
  • For educational purposes like studying
  • Employment reasons

Many DACA’s may even already have a legal entry due to previous overseas trips.

Eligible for Immigrant Visa

You are eligible for an immigrant visa based on a legal entry and a valid petition that is filed with the USCIS. You will, therefore, be eligible through the I-130 petition.

Immediate Availability

There is no limit on the number of visas available for immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens. A visa is, therefore, immediately available for you (just keep in mind the 8-12 month processing periods).

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.