The US Congress passed legislation in 1990 to help undocumented children through a special category known as special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS).

SIJS is a type of immigration status available to certain children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both parents.

SIJS is designed to protect these vulnerable children and provide them with a path to permanent residency in the United States.

To be eligible for SIJS, a child must be under the age of 21, unmarried, and have a valid court order issued by a state juvenile court that finds the child to be dependent on the court due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. The court order must also make a specific finding that it is not in the child’s best interest to return to their home country.

Once a child has obtained a valid court order, they may be eligible to apply for SIJS with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If their application is approved, they may be granted a green card and allowed to remain in the United States permanently.

SIJS is a complex process, and it is important to work with an experienced immigration attorney to navigate the requirements and eligibility criteria.

Minors with special immigrant juvenile status in the US can obtain a Green Card and become Lawful Permanent Residents.

Benefits to SIJS Juveniles

The Special Immigrant Juvenile Status allows the beneficiary to:

  • Remain legally in the United States.
  • Apply for a work authorization.
  • Apply immediately for legal permanent residence (Green Card).
  • Receive certain public benefits.
  • Apply for US citizenship upon turning 18 and after spending 5 years as a permanent resident. To obtain lower tuition fees than an international student.
  • Obtain the right to work in the United States.

Eligibility For Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

In many states, the SIJS family court order must be issued before the immigrant child turns 18 years of age. However, some states consider exceptions for young people between the ages of 18 and 21.

To qualify for this status, the family court judge must determine:

  1. That the immigrant child has been the victim of abuse, abandonment or neglect.
  2. The child cannot live with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect or abandonment.
  3. The immigrant children have no desire to return to their country of origin.

Other Eligibility Requirements Are:

  • Have written consent from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) if:
    • They are in HHS custody.
    • The juvenile court order changes their status or placement of custody.
  • Have the consent of USCIS. This means that you have an order from the juvenile court and the main reason is not seeking any immigration benefit.

What Happens After Filing A SIJS Application?

After reviewing the application, the USCIS assigns a priority date. The officer may approve or deny your request. He may also request to submit more evidence before making a final decision on your case.

If USCIS denies your SIJS application, you may be able appeal the decision.

What Are The Risks In Applying For A SIJS?

Applying for SIJS requires going to Family Court to obtain a court order which must be submitted with your SIJS application. If USCIS denies the SIJS application, you could be placed in removal proceedings.

Applying For Special Immigrant Juvenile Status If You Are In Removal Proceedings

If you are in facing removal proceedings in immigration court, you may be eligible to obtain a lawful permanent residence if you qualify through the SIJS process.