For minors who are in the United States and seeking protection from their parents, the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status may apply. Once you get SIJ classification, you may be able to get a Green Card and enjoy permanent residency in the United States lawfully.
As with any immigration matter, seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status can be complex. You must meet specific eligibility requirements and go through the process in the correct order, including getting a court order from a judge in a relevant state court. Working with an experienced immigration attorney to apply for SIJS can help improve your chances of a successful outcome.
What Is A Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?
The Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, or SIJS, is a specific classification for immigrants needing legal protection from the state courts. Specifically, the status is reserved for individuals who have experienced neglect, abandonment, or abuse by a parent. Minors who are undocumented immigrants can apply for this status as a path to legal residency and a green card in the United States.
Who Can Get A Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?
The eligibility requirements for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status are quite specific and are detailed below.
- You must be 20 years old or younger when you file the SIJS petition. If you are age 21 or older, you cannot petition for this status even if you meet all the other requirements. However, if you turn 21 after you file your petition and before the form is processed, your request can’t be denied simply because you’re 21 years old or older.
- You must already be residing in the country. Minors can’t use the SIJS petition to try to get legal residency or come to the United States legally if they aren’t already here. This is a protection and provision specific to undocumented immigrant minors.
- You can’t be married. You must be unmarried at the time you file the SIJS petition. However, you can have been previously married as long as the marriage was legally terminated via death, divorce, or annulment before you filed for SIJS.
- You must have a court order from a juvenile state court. This court order must find that you meet the abuse or neglect requirements for SIJ classification.
- You must have written consent from the appropriate office regarding any placement or custody status change. The Office of Refugee Resettlement or the Department of Health and Human Services must consent to any change in custody or placement because of the state court’s order.
What Is The Role Of The State Court In SIJS Determinations?
The involvement of the state courts in SIJS determinations makes these immigration cases somewhat unique. As these are immigration cases involving family matters, the federal system defers to the appropriate state courts regarding some of the decisions. This is because it’s thought that the family or state courts have more experience in matters of child custody and in making rulings regarding allegations of abuse or neglect.
The state courts in this case are typically juvenile courts. They are tasked with making determinations about what is best for the child regarding custody and whether abandonment, abuse, or neglect has occurred.
Before someone can move forward with a request for SIJ classification, a state court must decide and issue an order stating that:
- The minor in question was abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents
- The person cannot be safely reunited with one or both parents due to this abuse, abandonment, or neglect
- The individual is dependent on the court or in the custody of a person or state agency appointed by the court
- The court deems that returning the minor to his or her home country is not in the best interests of the minor
Immigration services will consider the motivation behind seeking the court order described above. To be eligible, someone must have sought the juvenile court order to get relief from abuse or other issues under state law. It can’t be sought simply to have a better immigration standing.
Filing Form I-360
To petition for SIJS, you must file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. This form is used for various special immigration statuses, including SIJS.
Along with the form, you’ll need to provide documentation demonstrating your age, the court order from the state court, and written consent from HHS or ORR. Mistakes when filling out the form or failing to provide the required documents can result in a denial of your petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.
How An Immigration Attorney Can Help
The above is only a brief summary of the process for filing for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and you can see just from this summary that it’s a complex process. You must complete numerous forms and deal with various courts and offices.
One way to make this process easier for yourself or any minor you might care about is to work with an immigration attorney. At Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C., we work with individuals and families to ensure they get fair treatment within the immigration process and the best chance at a successful outcome when applying for green cards or other immigration documents.
If you’re facing a family immigration matter or know someone who needs the protection of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, reach out today to find out how we can help.