Immigrant Juvenile Status
Children under 21 years in the United States who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent could be eligible for the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and become legal permanent residents.
Eligibility for SIJ Classification
To be eligible, the child must meet all requirements established by law. These include:
- Age – the child must be under 21 years of age at the time of filing the SIJ petition (Form I-360).
- Marital Status – The child must be single, which means they have never been married or the marriage ended in annulment, divorce, or death.
- Location and Dependency – The child must currently live in the United States and be a dependent of a juvenile court, in the custody of a state agency, or a person or entity designated by the court.
- Family Reunification – The child’s reunification with one or both parents must be impossible due to abuse, abandonment, neglect or a similar reason under state law.
- Best Interest – It should not be in the child’s best interest to return to the country of their parents’ nationality or habitual residence.
- USCIS Consent – The child must have sought the juvenile court order primarily to obtain relief from parental abuse and not primarily to obtain an immigration benefit.
State Juvenile Court Orders
To qualify for SIJ status in the U.S., a juvenile court, which makes decision based on state law, must have legal authority to decide on a minor’s custody due to maltreatment. While state courts can’t enforce immigration laws, they determine a juvenile’s best interests. USCIS alone grants or denies SIJ status or a Green Card, regardless of the court’s authority.
How to Apply for SIJ Classification (Form I-360)
To apply for SIJ classification, you must submit the following to USCIS:
- Form I-360 – Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant.
- Evidence of Age – Such as a birth certificate, passport or other official document that establishes your age.
- Valid Juvenile Court Order(s) – That make the required determinations and are supported by evidence.
- Written Consent – From the US Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Refugee Resettlement if you are in HHS custody and the court order also changes your custody or placement status.
Consideration of Deferred Action
USCIS also considers deferred action for noncitizens with an approved Form I-360 for SIJ classification who cannot apply for adjustment of status solely because an immigrant visa number is not immediately available. Deferred action is a procedural discretion that defers the procedures for removing a non-citizen from the United States for a certain period of time. It does not provide legal status.
Green Card Based on SIJ Classification (Form I-485)
If you have been granted SIJ classification, you may be eligible to apply for a Green Card by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
This process is crucial to protecting vulnerable youth and providing them with a path to a safe and stable life in the United States. As an immigration attorney, I highly recommend seeking legal advice to navigate this complex but vital process. Attorney Yunuen Mora of Cross Border Lawyer has helped many children get a state court order and successfully submitted SIJS petitions and adjustment of status applications.