All posts by Cheng, Cho, & Yee, Immigration Lawyers

Requirements for Traveling on DACA

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If you are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, you may be able to travel domestically as long as you have the proper documentation in Chicago. However, you may not be able to travel internationally unless you have a critical reason that allows for “Advance Parole.”

Knowing the specific requirements for traveling on DACA can help you determine which steps to take to obtain travel authorization for either domestic or international travel.

How Does DACA Work?

The DACA program gives young immigrants in the U.S. a chance to legally live and work in the U.S. and can potentially allow them to become naturalized citizens. Once the government has approved a person’s DACA application, the applicant will be able to avoid potential deportation while under the program.

Some benefits of the DACA program include the ability to:

  • Obtain work permits
  • Get social security cards
  • Acquire a driver’s license, depending on the specific state
  • Travel domestically and internationally for valid reasons such as humanitarian work and education

How to Qualify for DACA

If you want to apply for the DACA program, you must meet certain requirements in place for this program. These requirements largely pertain to the applicant’s age and the amount of time they’ve spent in the country, which is due to the fact that this program is for individuals who came to the country as children.

Age and Time in the U.S.

One of the main requirements of the DACA program is that you must have entered the country as a child under the age of 16 and as an undocumented immigrant. You also must have a birthdate that falls on or after June 16, 1981, and you must have lived in the country on a continuous basis as of June 15, 2007.

June 15, 2012 is another key date to consider: You must have been undocumented as of this date, and you need to have been physically located in the country on this day.

Criminal History

When it comes to criminal history, you must not have any history of convictions for serious misdemeanors or felonies, nor can you have a background with three misdemeanors or more. Also, the government must not find you to be a potential threat to people in this country or national security.


Educational requirements to qualify for DACA include either a high school degree or the equivalent of a high school degree. Exceptions to this requirement include enrollment in school or honorable discharge from a U.S. military branch.

DAPA vs. DACA: What’s the Difference?

When learning about the DACA program, you might ask, “What are DAPA and DACA?” While the DACA program aims to help undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children, the Deferred Action of Parents of American and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) is in place to help the parents of children who are either lawful permanent residents (LPRs) or U.S. citizens.

The Obama administration introduced both of these programs, with DAPA coming about in November 2014.

Domestic Travel Within the U.S.

Some people in the DACA program may want to travel within the country. If you have the right documentation, you may be able to do so legally as a DACA recipient. You may also travel domestically with the right documents if you’re still awaiting the approval of your DACA application.

There are several key documents you must possess to travel within the country under the DACA program, whether your application is pending or approved. These documents include:

  • A valid photo ID with the same name as what appears on your flight reservation, or
  • A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that proves your identity

Valid forms of ID include passports, driver’s licenses from a specific state, or driver’s permits, among other forms of government-issued ID.

You will also need a valid form of REAL ID-compliant identification by May 7, 2025. This documentation will apply to all individuals over 18 in the U.S. and become mandatory for individuals who want to travel domestically.

International Travel Challenges With DACA

If you plan on traveling internationally under the DACA program, this could be more challenging than traveling domestically. Before traveling internationally, you will need authorized permission to travel internationally from the U.S. government. This permission is called Advance Parole.

What Exactly Is “Advance Parole?”

This travel document enables you to return to the U.S. after initially leaving while eliminating the need to apply for another visa. It also prevents your DACA or another application from becoming void due to your travels. Many people use it on the DACA program or if they’re awaiting decisions on applications for adjustment of status, permanent residence, and asylum.

However, even if you are allowed re-entry with an Advance Parole document, you may still be unable to travel internationally unless you have a valid reason for embarking on these travels. These reasons exclude vacations and leisure, but they can apply to work, humanitarian efforts, and education.

Threats to the DACA Program

While the DACA program has helped many young immigrants get the protection they need to avoid deportation in the U.S., the government has been deciding the fate of DACA as certain parties oppose the program, arguing that it is unlawful.

The threat to DACA began with the case of Texas v. U.S., et al., when multiple Republican attorneys general attempted to have the Supreme Court declare DACA unlawful. Currently, the status of DACA is uncertain as we await a decision from Judge Andrew Hanen after recent hearings.

Previously, Judge Hanen has agreed with the Republicans in the decision to deem DACA unlawful, but he may reverse his decision in the future.

Applying for a Green Card as a DACA Recipient

If you want more freedoms as a DACA recipient, you won’t be able to gain LPR or citizenship status directly through DACA. However, you may be able to apply for a green card that will give you more options in the U.S.

To qualify for a green card in the U.S., you must meet the lawful entry requirement for immigrants. Depending on your situation, you may apply for a family-, employment-, or humanitarian-based green card.

If you don’t currently have lawful entry in the U.S., you will need to go through a foreign consulate to adjust your status. This process would entail leaving the U.S. temporarily to obtain a valid U.S. visa at an American consulate or embassy in your country of origin. While this may allow you to meet lawful entry requirements, you may be unable to enter the country again if you lived in the U.S. with undocumented status for six months or longer.

Once you receive your green card, you may be able to eventually become an LPR or gain citizenship if you meet all additional requirements. The advantages of this status adjustment would give you more freedom, including the ability to travel with fewer restrictions compared to DACA recipients, and the ability to vote and receive government assistance such as financial aid and food stamps.

How an Attorney Can Help

Not sure if you meet the requirements to travel domestically or internationally? You may also need help if you worry that you’re facing deportation or have other issues that apply to your immigrant status. In any case, you may benefit from the assistance of a Chicago immigration and legal services attorney.

For example, an attorney can work with you to help you obtain and complete all documentation to prepare for domestic or international travel. An attorney may also be able to help you organize all documentation to help you apply for adjustment of status and get on the path to citizenship.

Attorneys with a focus on immigration may also help defend you in administrative court if you’re facing deportation or other legal issues. Ultimately, you can get plenty of guidance from an experienced lawyer if you need legal assistance as a DACA recipient or an immigrant with another status.

Meeting the DACA Travel Requirements in Chicago

So, can DACA recipients travel in our outside the U.S.? With the proper documentation and reasons, and by meeting all applicable requirements, these individuals can travel either domestically or internationally.

Traveling domestically in the U.S. is generally easier as a DACA recipient than it is to travel internationally. If you want to travel domestically, you will require proper identification, which will eventually include a form of REAL ID in Illinois and across the country. If you want to travel outside the U.S., you will need a valid reason to do so along with Advance Parole documentation, or you may be unable to reenter the U.S.

Meeting the proper requirements will help ensure that you’re able to travel legally both within the country and abroad. 

Immigration News: What Is the Dream Act of 2023?

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The Dream Act of 2023 is a specific bipartisan bill with the goal of giving young immigrants in the country the chance to become citizens of the country they’ve called home for their entire lives. It works by enabling young immigrants to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in the U.S., enabling them to live and work in the country. It’s one of the most important pieces of immigration news to come out in recent years.

How the Dream Act of 2023 Began

The Dream Act of 2023 first developed under Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham, a Democrat and a Republican, respectively. Both created the bill with the goal of opening a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for most, if not all, of their lives. These individuals are known as Dreamers. The bill would ultimately aim to enable these undocumented immigrants to gain LPR status and, eventually, become citizens if they choose. 

The Dream Act of 2023 ultimately helps eliminate the fear of deportation that many young immigrants face. Upon becoming LPRs through the act, immigrants may not only live in the U.S. legally, but can also gain employment and leave the country without fear of being barred from reentry.

While Dreamers have had options available to them in the past under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy that the Obama Administration established in 2012, DACA has undergone repeated threats in the years since. As of 2023, the DACA policy is considered illegal according to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has led to an indefinite closure of the policy to new applicants. 

The Dream Act of 2023 came along in a time when there is great uncertainty regarding the future for Dreamers. While Congress has debated the development of the Dream Act in some form for decades, there hasn’t been a real version of it in place until now. This particular act means there is new hope for Dreamers on the horizon.

How the Dream Act of 2023 Would Work

The following are the basic steps that people could take under the Dream Act to transition from undocumented immigrants to LPRs and citizens:

Gaining CPR Status

The Dream Act of 2023 doesn’t give immigrants a direct path to citizenship, but it can point them in the right direction by allowing them to apply for conditional permanent (CPR) status. There are certain requirements they must meet to qualify under this act.

If applications for CPR status receive approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), they would be able to keep this status for eight years. However, they may no longer be valid CPRs if they no longer meet the criteria in place to qualify. 

Becoming LPRs

Once individuals have either completed two years at or graduated from a postsecondary education program, worked for at least three years, or provided honorable military service for two years in the U.S., they may have the conditions removed and become LPRs. Many DACA recipients would automatically become LPRs due to their having met these requirements upon applying under the new bill. 

In addition, approved applicants may be able to have their conditional requirements removed if they are under compelling circumstances. These specific circumstances would include situations where the DACA recipient’s removal would lead to serious consequences and challenges for the individual’s immediate family members who have LPR or citizenship status.

Earning Citizenship

With conditions removed and if they meet certain qualifications, Dreamers may become citizens. To gain citizenship in the U.S., you would need to submit identifying information and biometric data, clear a medical exam, and have a criminal background devoid of certain felony convictions and other serious criminal convictions. 

Becoming American citizens would offer more freedom for Dreamers and their loved ones, enabling them to freely live and work in the U.S. while making it easier for them to contribute personally and economically to their communities. 

Harsh immigration policies are toxic for kids in the U.S. and their families, but the Dream Act is attempting to mitigate those policies by making it easier for Dreamers to truly succeed in this country.

Who Qualifies for the Dream Act of 2023?

If you want to qualify for the Dream Act, the U.S. government must deem you either “deportable” or “inadmissible” under current immigration laws. Others may qualify if they are in the country with temporary protected status. 

Also, applicants must have lived in the country continuously since arriving in the country as minors under the age of 18. Specifically, they need to have lived in the country continuously for four years upon their arrival. 

Qualifying individuals will also need to have earned or be in the process of earning a high school diploma or the equivalent of one, such as a General Educational Development (GED). Individuals may also meet the educational requirement if a higher education institution has admitted them.

Requirements for the Dream Act

When trying to qualify for the Dream Act of 2023, you will need to take certain steps to meet all requirements. Keep in mind that the Dream Act of 2023 isn’t currently in law, meaning you must follow the steps to apply for DACA.

The following steps detail how to apply for the Dream Act under DACA:

1. Determine Eligibility

The first step will involve determining whether you’re eligible for the Dream Act and DACA. To be eligible, you must:

  • Have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • Have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 up to the present day
  • Have entered the country prior to turning 16
  • Have had no lawful conditional or permanent resident status on June 15, 2012
  • Be currently enrolled in school, have graduated from high school, received the equivalent of a diploma, or have served in the military honorably
  • Be physically in the U.S. at the time of applying and as of June 15, 2012

If you’re not sure whether you qualify under the current requirements, an immigration legal services attorney can help confirm eligibility.

2. Collect All Relevant Documentation

You must also collect sufficient documentation to help prove eligibility and meet all requirements in place for DACA recipients.

Documents will include: Two passport photographs that include your name and date of birth, a birth certificate, a foreign passport biographic page, criminal records, school records, and proof of entry into the U.S. before the age of 16. USCIS won’t return these documents to you after applying, making it important to only submit copies of these documents.

3. Pay the Necessary Fees

You will also need to pay a fee of $495 to USCIS when applying for DACA. You have the option of paying this fee via personal checks, money orders, or cashier’s checks, but it’s ideal to pay via money order or cashier’s check because of USCIS’s current uncertainty around withdrawal times.

If you’re unable to pay this fee on your own, you may be able to pay through financial assistance from legal service providers or certain organizations that support immigrant rights. 

4. Complete All Necessary Paperwork

Obtain copies of all relevant, up-to-date forms from the USCIS website. These forms will include Form I-765, Form I-765WS, Form I-821D, and Form G-1145, along with any other forms that apply to your case.

You can then complete each form. When doing so, ensure all information you provide is accurate, updated, and consistent across all documents. Be honest when answering all questions and include all relevant information to increase your chances of approval. 

After completing all relevant forms, create copies of them for your personal records. Also, make sure that you have provided a signature for each form.

5. Develop a Cover Letter

A cover letter is a good way to help speed up the review process when USCIS receives your application packet. This cover letter will summarize the information within, and you can use it to help you make sure you’ve included all necessary documents in your packet before sending it to USCIS.

You can find plenty of examples of these cover letters online.

6. Submit Your Packet

With everything in order, you can send your packet to USCIS for review. You may then track the status of your submission.

7. Attend a Biometrics Appointment

You will also need to visit your nearest approved Application Support Center to have biometrics taken.

8. Await Review

USCIS will review your application and determine if you qualify for a DACA grant. You may need to submit additional information upon request before receiving an official response from USCIS. 

The Dream Act Gives Young Immigrants a Chance at Thriving

With the help of the Dream Act of 2023 and other attempts to improve immigration policies in the U.S., young immigrants will have a better chance of flourishing in the U.S. and eventually becoming citizens if they meet all qualifications. Therefore, potential Dreamers should stay up-to-date on the latest immigration news.

Are Immigrants Still Eligible for DACA Renewal?

Happy interracial family. Concept of DACA renewal

Immigrants in Chicago and across the country are still potentially eligible to renew their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) grant, as long as they meet all eligibility requirements in place under the U.S. government.

Discover more about what DACA entails and how you may be able to apply for DACA renewal if you qualify.

What Are the Benefits of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)?

The DACA program initially began in 2012 under the Obama administration. The goal of this program was to allow young children of immigrants to legally live and work in the U.S., enabling them to avoid deportation.

There are many benefits that the DACA program offers for recipients, known as Dreamers. These benefits include:

  • Opportunities for employment, experiential learning, and national services
  • Help with purchasing or renting homes
  • Consumer protection, financial education, and tax credits
  • Resources to maintain health and well-being
  • Resources for active-duty service members and military veterans

If individuals meet the eligibility requirements in place and can adhere to the timelines for DACA application and renewal, they’ll be able to take full advantage of the benefits the DACA program has to offer.

While the Trump administration attempted to end the DACA program, recent DACA news is positive as the Biden administration took steps to give Dreamers the protection they need. In deciding the fate of DACA, Congress hasn’t made a move, but the Biden administration took action in the form of getting the Department of Homeland Security to step in to “preserve and fortify” the program.

Other government agencies and programs are also coming along to give Dreamers certain protections under the DACA program, helping to keep them in the country legally and encouraging them to contribute to American society.

Ultimately, the courts have determined that the decision to end DACA was unlawful, keeping this program in action to give young immigrants a chance to enjoy life in the country they call home.

What Are the Eligibility Requirements for a DACA Renewal?

If you want to renew your DACA grant, you must meet U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requirements for eligibility.

Specifically, you may be able to apply for DACA renewal if you meet three main criteria:

Continual Residency

The first eligibility requirement is for you to have lived continuously in the U.S. after first qualifying for and receiving the DACA grant. However, you may still qualify to renew your grant if the U.S. government authorized your immigration to another country.

Clear Criminal Background

You must not have a criminal background that includes any felonies, more than three misdemeanors, or serious misdemeanors. 

Confirmation as a Non-Threat

You must not pose a threat to national security or public safety in the government’s eyes. 

If you meet each of these requirements, you may be able to renew your DACA grant in Chicago.

Applying for Renewal Before Time Runs Out

If you want to receive a USCIS DACA renewal, you must submit your DACA renewal application before time runs out, but you cannot apply too early, either.

USCIS gives you the chance to submit your DACA application between 120 and 150 days of your current grant’s expiration. Any earlier or later will render you unable to apply. In other words, you have 30 days to apply. 

It’s crucial to apply before your grant expires, as you will no longer have legal immigration status in the U.S. if you are without a valid DACA grant. As a result, you would be unable to legally reside and work in the U.S. and risk deportation. 

Steps to Renew Your DACA Status

If you want to find out exactly how to renew DACA grants, the following are some steps you can take to successfully apply on time:

1. Complete All Relevant, Up-to-Date Paperwork

The first step to apply is to locate and obtain copies of updated DACA paperwork. Specifically, you’ll want to look for DACA renewal forms that include all the necessary fields that you’ll need to fill. Make sure all information you provide on this form is current, consistent, and accurate. 

If you haven’t applied for a renewal before, you may also use the forms you initially used to apply for your DACA grant.

2. Complete the Corresponding Application Forms

You can visit the USCIS website to download and print copies of all required application forms. These forms include Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization), Form I-765WS (Worksheet for Form I-765), and Form I-821D (Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

3. Obtain a Passport Photo

Another requirement for your DACA renewal application in Chicago is to have two recent passport photos. You will need to take these photos no later than 30 days leading up to when you submit Form I-765. You can take these photos on your own if they meet the requirements in place for them, or you can visit your local post office, pharmacy, or another business that offers to take passport photos.

3. Pay the Fee

Before you can complete the filing process, you must also pay the $495 fee for filing your forms. There are two main components of this fee:

  • $410 that goes toward authorizing your ability to gain employment
  • $85 that applies to obtaining biometric data, including fingerprints

You have the option of paying this one-time fee via credit card or money order.

4. Collect All Information and File for Your DACA Renewal

The next step is to gather all documentation you need to submit to USCIS. This will include all forms and aforementioned documentation above, along with a cover letter, both sides of your employment authorization document, and other supporting documentation that proves eligibility.

After gathering this documentation, you can file all of it collectively to USCIS for review. Ensure you send it to the filing address corresponding to your location. 

5. Await a Decision

Once you’ve filed for DACA renewal, the next step involves waiting for USCIS to review and provide a response. Currently, USCIS attempts to process all DACA renewal requests no later than 120 days after receipt. You can reach out to USCIS to learn the status of your application if you don’t receive a response within 105 days of filing.

If USCIS denies your application, the agency should send a written explanation for the rejection. While you typically cannot appeal the USCIS’s denial of a DACA renewal application, you may be able to get some help from Chicago immigration legal services attorneys

Can You Change From DACA to Green Card in Chicago?

Under the DACA program, you will be unable to gain citizenship in the U.S. unless you take steps to gain lawful permanent residence or citizenship. One way you can do this is to apply for a green card. As long as you meet the requirements for legal entry, you may apply for a green card under different circumstances.

For example, you may apply for a green card based on employment, marriage, or humanitarian purposes. If you are unable to enter the country legally at the time of applying for a green card, you will need to go through a foreign U.S. embassy or consulate to adjust your immigrant status. 

One way to apply for a green card that many immigrants try is to go through family. Specifically, you may be able to receive a family-based green card if you have an immediate family member in the U.S. who currently has a green card or is a U.S. citizen. These family members may include spouses, parents, or children. In these instances, you would need to prove the legitimacy of your relationship with the family member.

If you apply for and receive a green card, you may proceed to take additional steps to become a lawful permanent resident or, eventually, a U.S. citizen. Taking this step would open you up to even more benefits than what the DACA program offers alone, including the ability to vote, receive college loans and other funding options, and apply for food stamps.

Getting Help With Your Application

If you’re not sure whether you qualify to renew your DACA grant, you may be able to get assistance from a lawyer. Immigration attorneys may be able to help guide you through the application process and indicate whether you qualify for DACA renewal.

In addition to helping with gathering, completing, and submitting your renewal application, an experienced lawyer may help you identify other opportunities to gain lawful permanent residence or citizenship. For instance, a lawyer may help determine if you qualify to receive a green card or begin the naturalization process to become a citizen. 

If you’re an immigrant in the U.S. as a Dreamer, you will still qualify to renew your DACA grant for the foreseeable future if you meet the eligibility requirements in place. Successfully applying for DACA renewal could enable you to take additional steps to remain in the U.S. as a resident or citizen.

Immigration Equality: Your Rights as a Transgender Immigrant

Set Of Multicultural People Headshots With Cheerful Young And Mature Multiethnic Females And Males Over Bright Colorful Studio Backgrounds. Concept of immigration equality

When transgender immigrants want to enter the U.S., they can gain certain rights after completing the legal immigration process. For instance, transgender immigrants have the right to identify as their preferred gender and name, and they may seek asylum in the U.S. to avoid potential persecution.

Why It Is Important to Know Your Rights as a Transgender Immigrant

Even with laws in place protecting transgender immigrants and citizens, transgender individuals face discrimination in the U.S. Government legislation and prejudiced individuals may attempt to oppress many transgender people, but there are rights available to you as a transgender immigrant.

Knowing the specific rights you have will help you be protected from and stand up against any discrimination or mistreatment you may face when entering the country. In addition, you may also be able to protect you and your loved ones from deportation if you risk removal from the U.S.

There are many rights owed to you, including rights pertaining to airport security, health care, employment, Medicare, housing and homeless shelters, and military records. 

Adjustment of Status

Like other immigrants, transgender immigrants and others in the LGBTQ community have the ability to apply for adjustment of status to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs). They may wish to apply for adjustment of status when seeking asylum in the U.S. or otherwise attempting to live and work in the country.

There are four types of immigrant statuses that classify immigrants and non-immigrants in the U.S. These include the following:

  • Undocumented — If an immigrant enters the country illegally or without permission in any capacity, they are undocumented at the time of entry. They may face deportation at any time and will need to take certain steps to obtain temporary visas or begin the path to U.S. citizenship to stay in the U.S. legally. 
  • Non-immigrants — If you are a non-immigrant, you will be able to work and live in the country temporarily. There are multiple types of non-immigrant visas that you may obtain, including B1 or B2 visas for workers and F-1 visas for students. At some point, you may be able to apply to adjust your status and become either an LPR or a U.S. citizen.
  • Residents — Documented immigrants may also become either conditional or permanent residents. Conditional residents are those who receive a green card before they’ve been married to their partners for two years. Lawful permanent residents, or LPRs, are immigrants who can live and work permanently in the U.S. with a green card. 
  • Citizens — Immigrants may go through the steps to become U.S. citizens by undergoing naturalization. To gain citizenship, immigrants must have lived in the U.S. for three to five years and meet all other qualifications according to the U.S. government.

Transgender immigrants have the same rights to adjust their status as other immigrants in these categories.

Protection From Deportation

In the event of any issues potentially resulting in deportation, LGBTQ immigrants may avoid deportation if they qualify under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which would apply if they arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16.

Depending on the circumstances, you may also have other defenses against deportation. For example, you may be able to seek LGBTQ asylum in the U.S. if you fled your country of origin for persecution or fear that you’ll face future persecution upon returning. Seeking asylum may allow you to gain legal status in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident at some point, but you may be able to begin with a work permit that enables you to gain employment in the U.S. and stay here temporarily.

Rights While in Federal Immigration Detention

There are also LGBTQ immigration rights for individuals in federal immigration detention in accordance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These rights include the following:

  • Transition-related medical care — While in detention, you have the right to any hormone treatment that you took before officials detained you. You will also have access to a medical evaluation if you weren’t previously taking hormone treatments.
  • Access to preferred clothing options — Individuals have the right to access the clothes they wish to wear according to gender identity. However, they may not be able to obtain preferred underwear options at certain detention facilities.
  • Selection of officials for strip searches — You also have the right to choose whether the person performing a strip search, if needed, is a man or a woman.
  • The right to avoid harassment and sexual assault — If anyone attempts to sexually harass or assault you, you may file a complaint against the responsible individuals with the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. You may also be able to file a complaint on a detainee’s behalf if you have that detainee’s formal written permission to do so.
  • The right to avoid placement into isolation — You may file a complaint with the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties if officials place you in isolation while detained.
  • Access to HIV medication — If you are currently taking HIV medication, you will be able to access it while detained.

Updating Immigration Documents

As a transgender immigrant, you may need to update your immigration documents with your preferred gender and new name. Often, this process begins with a court order requesting the name or gender change. 

If you want to notify U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of a gender change, you will only be able to do so via a letter from a licensed osteopath or doctor, but it doesn’t need to disclose the exact procedure. This letter can help show that you have transitioned to another gender through formal, clinical treatment. This letter will include the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration number along with the physician’s license number. 

Several types of documentation may require updates if you change your name or gender. For example, you may need to update your naturalization certificate, LPR card, or employment authorization cards. 

The following are the specific steps you’ll need to take to change each type of document:

  • Naturalization Certificate — To change this document, you must file Form N-565 and either pay a fee or file a fee waiver, and you’ll need to submit at least two passport photographs along with other supporting documents.
  • Permanent Resident Card — Changing this document will entail filing Form I-90 and paying a fee or submitting a fee waiver, and you’ll also need to include any available supporting documents.
  • Employment Authorization Card — This document change will involve filing Form I-765, paying a fee or submitting a fee waiver, and providing at least two passport photographs, along with other supporting documents.

In most cases, supporting documentation here would include documents such as letters from physicians confirming a gender change, along with a court order for a name or gender change.

Why Hiring an Attorney May Be in Your Best Interests

If you experience discrimination as a transgender immigrant or another member of the LGBTQ community, or if you need assistance with any aspect of immigration, hire an immigration legal services attorney for assistance.

A good attorney will push for equality for immigrants in all situations and provide the representation you need to overcome various immigration challenges, whether they pertain to discrimination or other issues. Some specific legal services you may receive from an experienced attorney include:

Assistance for Seeking Asylum

An attorney may help you seek asylum in the U.S. if you’ve experienced persecution or fear persecution in your country based on your gender identity, sexual orientation, or HIV positive status. 

Avoiding Deportation

If you face deportation from the U.S. for any reason, you may be able to turn to an attorney for protection to avoid it. An attorney may find a valid reason to defend against deportation and prove that you still qualify to remain a non-immigrant or a resident in the U.S. You can consult a local firm to find out specifically how an immigration attorney can help stop deportation.


If you lost a case when appearing before an immigration judge, you may be able to appeal the judge’s decision. Specifically, you would need to go through either U.S. Courts of Appeals or the Board of Immigration Appeals. However, the appeals process requires you to act fast to successfully reverse any court decision.

Applying for Citizenship

If you are an LPR and have lived in the country for at least three years in a marriage or five years under other circumstances, you may qualify for the naturalization process and become a U.S. citizen. An attorney can help guide you through the naturalization process and inform you of the steps you must complete to successfully apply for citizenship.

An attorney may be able to provide various other services to help immigrants in nearly any situation, including protection in the event of domestic abuse or a violent crime, help with applying for different types of visas, and assistance with sponsorship for bi-national same-sex couples. 

Other Resources for Transgender Immigrants

LGBTQ immigrants also have access to many additional resources to assist them, in addition to immigration services lawyers. 

These resources include the following:


For transgender immigrants and other members of the LGBTQ community who need some support and assistance, the mobile app selfsea helps connect these individuals with many resources. Specifically, selfsea advertises itself as a peer-to-peer platform that can connect you with support, mental health resources, and more assistance from others. It’s essentially a refuge that provides individuals with a safe space to connect with others within the community.

Queer Detainee Empowerment Project

If you are emerging from immigration detention, the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP) may help you get the services and support you need to successfully integrate into American society. In the process, this project can help you avoid issues related to discrimination and violence toward members of the LGBTQ immigrant community.

Immigrant Legal Resource Center

All types of service providers can provide competent services that support the LGBTQ immigrant community through the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), specifically using this organization’s manual titled LGBTQ Immigration: Ensuring Equality for All. This manual and the information it contains can help ensure all service providers facilitate the integration of LGBTQ immigrants, including transgender immigrants and others.

Rainbow Railroad

Members of the LGBTQ community who experience any form of state-sponsored violence may seek help from Rainbow Railroad, which provides victims of violence with transportation to and within the U.S. and Canada.

Understanding Your Rights as a Transgender Immigrant

Immigration equality is crucial in helping transgender immigrants and others get the help and support they need when entering and living in the U.S. Transgender immigrants have the same rights as all other immigrants and can exercise them as needed.

Do Immigrants Pay Taxes?

Like other residents and citizens, immigrants living in the U.S. must generally pay state and federal taxes. Due to the varying legal statuses, many will wonder, “Do immigrants pay taxes in the U.S.?” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) put specific requirements in place for immigrants to follow and comply with the country’s laws and regulations. 

How Immigrants Contribute to the American Economy Through Taxes

Immigration affects the U.S. economy in numerous ways, one of which is through the millions in taxes that immigrants pay every year. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, immigrants pay over $90 billion in taxes each year while receiving a mere $5 billion in welfare. 

Undocumented immigrants also pay a lot in taxes, with the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finding that undocumented immigrants spend around $10.6 billion every year in local and state taxes alone. 

Other reports have found that immigrants work many hours in crucial jobs that help contribute to the economy and American communities. As a result of holding these jobs, immigrants are important contributors to the American economy and their respective communities by providing vital services.

While many also debate the impact of immigration on wages, the fact is that immigrants often take jobs that are different from most native citizens. Many scholars and experts argue that the reason for this is because of the specific comparative advantages between immigrant and native workers. Generally, with more immigrants entering the country and paying taxes, the average wage isn’t likely to change as long as immigrants and natives aren’t competing for the same jobs. 

Ultimately, if immigrants didn’t pay taxes in the U.S. or contribute to the economy in other ways, America’s economy would suffer in the long term. Immigrants help the economy flourish through the payment of different taxes in accordance with USCIS requirements.

What Are the USCIS Tax Return Requirements for Immigrants?

In most cases, under USCIS requirements, immigrants must pay a combination of state and federal taxes annually. In addition to current relevant tax forms, immigrants may need to obtain and complete other types of forms if they need to meet certain additional requirements.

Generally, you must file taxes in the U.S. if you’re a lawful permanent resident (LPR), an immigrant living in the country with a valid green card, or an immigrant with undocumented status.

Individuals who want to file taxes can easily obtain all necessary forms through the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) website and other relevant sources, including the USCIS website and their state government’s website. You can then print out the necessary forms and complete them. Immigrants can also complete them online and retain digital copies. In addition to tax forms, USCIS may require you to complete and submit other supporting documentation, including bank statements and proof of purchases and previous tax payments. 

If you need help determining how to file your taxes with the appropriate documents, you may benefit from speaking with a tax professional or immigration legal services attorney for additional assistance. A professional will be able to guide you in the right direction to help you maintain compliance with USCIS requirements and avoid potential issues that could result from failing to file taxes sufficiently and on time. 

If you fail to meet USCIS tax requirements, you could face certain consequences, such as fines, the inability to renew your immigration status, or disqualification from becoming a U.S. citizen.

Non-immigrant Statuses That Aren’t Required to Pay Taxes

While immigrants will need to pay taxes according to the current USCIS requirements. But, do migrant workers pay taxes? Do other non-immigrants pay taxes when not living in the U.S. as residents or citizens?

USCIS doesn’t require individuals in certain non-immigrant categories to pay taxes each year. These exceptions include the following:

  • Foreign nationals or diplomats with Category A visas 
  • Treaty investors or traders with Category E visas
  • Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or international organizations with Category G visas
  • Crew members on foreign aircraft or ships while under the employment of a foreign organization

In addition to these exceptions, some individuals may be exempt from paying Medicare and Social Security taxes while in the country completing USCIS-approved work. These particular exempt individuals include people in the country on J-1, F-1, M-1, and Q-1 visas, which may include scholars and students, along with trainees, researchers, and teachers. Non-immigrants will also be exempt from these taxes if they either currently live in the Philippines while conducting business in Guam on H-2 visas, or if they’re on an H-2A visa to enter the country temporarily for the purpose of performing agricultural work.

On the other hand, you may need to complete taxes under certain circumstances as a non-immigrant. Specifically, if you want to become an LPR or otherwise change your non-immigrant status, you may need to complete Form I-508, the Request for Waiver of Certain Rights, Privileges, Exemptions, and Immunities. 

If you don’t fall under any of these exempt categories, you will likely need to file annual income taxes and others with the federal, state, or local government. 

Which Tax Forms Are Immigrants Required to File?

If you are an immigrant in the country as a resident of any kind, you may need to complete various forms to file your taxes. These include the following:

Form 1040

One important form to file as an immigrant is Form 1040, the U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. This is the standard form that all U.S. residents and citizens must file with the IRS every year in the country. If you’re in the country on a green card, you must file this form.

This form requires you to provide information such as your name, social security number, filing status, income, digital assets, dependents, tax and credits, and payments, among other details.

Form 1040-NR

An alternative form to file with the government may be Form 1040-NR, the Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. This form is a requirement for individuals who are nonresident aliens conducting business or trade within the U.S., those who represent a trust or estate that must file this form, or those who represent deceased individuals who would have needed to file this form while alive.

This form requests much of the same information as Form 1040, including filing status and contact information, digital assets, and dependents. Additionally, this form asks about any income earned in connection with U.S. trade or business. 

Students and scholars in the country will also need to file this particular form if they earn any taxable income while in the U.S.

Form 8843

If you are in the country on either an F or J visa, you will need to file Form 8843, the Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals With a Medical Condition. In other words, if you’re a scholar or student living in the U.S., you will need to submit this form even if you aren’t working under a domestic or foreign employer. 

Form 8843 is a specific type of document that USCIS requires you to file to obtain personal information about you and the nature of your stay in the U.S. Some items you’ll need to fill out in this form include general information such as your visa type and your country of origin, along with details about your stay as a teacher, trainee, student, professional athlete, or somebody with a medical condition or medical problem. 

How Do Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes?

In addition to immigrants and certain non-immigrants, undocumented immigrants must pay taxes while living in the U.S. if they collect any income. These individuals can file taxes in a few different ways, depending on their preferred method and circumstances. 

One way undocumented immigrants can file and pay taxes is to report all earnings via an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Using this number, you can report all taxable income to the IRS confidentially. 

One of the main advantages of regularly filing taxes as an undocumented immigrant is that it may help your case if you want to become an LPR or citizen, as it helps show how you’ve intended to make an honest living in the U.S. and contribute to its economy.

Determining When to Pay Taxes

If you’re an immigrant in the U.S., you will need to pay taxes in most cases. However, if you’re a non-immigrant worker, student, or another individual on a different type of visa, you may be exempt from paying income taxes while still needing to complete other types of forms.

By adhering to USCIS tax requirements, you can remain compliant in the U.S. as an LPR, an immigrant in the country with a green card, or an undocumented immigrant. In turn, you can continue contributing to the American economy while earning an honest living in the U.S., whether you want to maintain the same status or seek to change it in the future.