Special Immigrant Juvenile Status [SIJS]: The Basics

Allison Lukanich

If you are caring for an undocumented minor, or are a single parent caring for one, chances are your child may qualify for an immigration status known as “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status” or SIJS. Pursuing SIJS is a great option for minor kids, those under the age of 18, or in some states 21, who may have fallen out of status or be undocumented through no fault of their own.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status or SIJS is an immigration self-petition, meaning if a minor child can demonstrate he or she meets the requirements he or she can file the status.  Once the self-petition is approved, or in some circumstances while it is pending, the minor child can also file an application for an adjustment of status, the result is lawful permanent residency, or green card status, when approved.

Do They Qualify?

There are various requirements to demonstrate that a minor child qualifies for SIJS.  First, he or she must be a minor in the state that has jurisdiction over the child. For most states in the U.S., that means under the age of 18.  However, a minority of states are willing to consider a case if initiated before the child turns 21. You can check on what your state’s age of majority is here. The child must also be unmarried.  A state court must determine the following:

  • That the child is dependent on the court or in the custody of a state agency, department, or an individual appointed by the court;
  • The child cannot be reunified with one or both parents due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect; and
  • It is not in the child’s best interest to be returned to his or her home country or country of last residence of the child’s parents.

What is the Process?

Pursuing SIJS is a two-step process that requires action at the state or family court level, as well as through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

First, the guardian of the child must petition for custody from the parents in the local family court, and the family court must determine the three factors listed above.  A single parent can petition for sole custody of a child where the other parent abused, abandoned, or neglected the child, even if that parent is in the home country and not present in the United States.

Once the custody order is obtained, the child files the SIJS self-petition on Form I-360with USCIS.  In some scenarios, they may simultaneously file an application to adjust status at the same time.  However, because only 10,000 SIJS cases can be approved every year, there is a significant backlog for some countries, and the child must wait until his or her priority date in the EB4 category is current on the visa bulletin, before pursing the adjustment of status.

See our downloadable resource page for an explanation of the visa bulletin.

SIJS is a wonderful option to many undocumented children in the country who are undocumented through no fault of their own.  Many were brought here by a parent or relative when they were young, or some were forced to fall out of status due to the negative actions of an abusive or neglectful parent.  If you are an undocumented minor or the guardian of an undocumented minor and think he or she may qualify for this status, please contact us todayfor a consult to discuss.

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