Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is an immigration classification available to certain undocumented immigrants under the age of 21 who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both parents. SIJS is a way for immigrants under 21 to apply for and obtain legal permanent residence in the United States.
There are very specific requirements for a child to qualify for SIJS, and the criteria are:
- The applicant must be under 21 years old;
- They must be unmarried;
- They must be declared dependent in a juvenile court. This means that the Family Court must take jurisdiction over a petition addressing the needs of the applicant;
- Reunification with one or both of the child’s parents must no longer be a viable option due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar basis under state law; AND
- It is not in the best interests of the minor to return to his/her country of nationality or last habitual residence.
Once a minor receives SIJS, they will be able to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident, obtain work authorization, and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.
There are two main stages in obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. First, the minor must engage in a proceeding in the Family or Probate Court in the county where they resides, (i.e., custody, adoption, or guardianship). As part of this proceeding, the minor must obtain a “special findings order” that declares the minor’s eligibility for SIJS. Although guardianship is the most common way for the State Court to obtain jurisdiction over a minor, it is also possible to bring a motion requesting the order though a custody, neglect proceeding. The second stage, after receiving this order from the State Court, the minor may then apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for SIJS status and eventually Legal Permanent Resident when a visa becomes available. Attorney Amezola has extensive experience in handling these cases. She knows the sensitive nature of these proceedings and the timing limitations on the age requirements. Call us for a consultation to review your matter.