What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?
The U.S. Immigration Code provides a pathway to citizenship for minors in the country who are undocumented through no fault of their own. This includes children who were brought to the United States at a young age and those who may have fallen out of status. This pathway, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), is intended to assist minors who have experienced abuse, abandonment or neglect by one or both of their parents. Once approved, SIJS recipients can then file for an adjustment of status to obtain lawful permanent residency and ultimately citizenship, if they desire.
What are the requirements for SIJS?
To qualify for SIJS, the minor must demonstrate the following:
-Minority under the laws of the state that has jurisdiction over the child. In most states, this means they under the age of 18; however, in a few states the age is 21.
-That the minor is unmarried;
-That the minor cannot be reunified with one or both parents due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect;
-The child or teen is dependent on the court or in the custody of a state agency, department, or an individual appointed by the court; and
-That it is not in the child’s best interest to be returned to the country or origin / country of last residence of the minor’s parents.
How do I apply for SIJS?
SIJS is a two-step process. The first step involves the minor’s caregiver to petition for legal custody in state court. Similarly, if the caregiver is a single parent, they need to petition for sole custody on the grounds that the other parent abused, abandoned, or neglected the child. The single parent must do this even if the other parent is not present in the country. In addition to awarding the single parent or caregiver custody, the state court must determine that the minor cannot be reunified with the absent parent or parents due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect and that it is not in the minor’s best interest to be returned to his or her country of origin, as listed above.
Once the custody order is finalized by the state court, the minor may file the SIJS self-petition on Form I-360 and pursue their case with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
If you are caring for an undocumented minor and think the child or teen may qualify for SIJS, please contact us for a consult. Martinez Immigration can help you through the application process and understand all of your options.