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If you are in the United States and are the victim of abuse, parental neglect, or have been abandoned, you may be eligible for special immigrant juvenile status.

Our New Jersey immigration attorneys at Curbelo Law have more than 10 years of experience in immigration cases for Latinos and other ethnicities. We will help you determine the types of American visas that you and your family require. 

Call today and you can get a private consultation where we legally represent you in any type of immigration matter.

What Is And How Is Special Juvenile Immigrant Status Defined In 2022

A frequent question in our offices is “What is the SIJS program?” Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a status that allows minors who are in the United States and have been victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment by their parents, to remain legally in the country.

The SIJS is another path to obtain the Green Card for a minor and become a permanent resident in the United States. This immigration relief seeks to protect foreigners under the category of special immigrant. 

So, what is a special immigrant? The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines a special immigrant as an alien who can obtain a Green Card after meeting some requirements. 

In case you have a family member who wants to obtain immigration status, you may be interested in knowing everything about the adjustment of Status in the United States and the consular process.

SIJS Benefits

Being eligible for the SIJS program comes with multiple benefits for minors, among the most notable are:

  • Become a permanent legal resident in the United States.
  • To be able to freely enter and leave the United States. 
  • Be eligible for a process to obtain American citizenship.
  • Remain legally in the U.S. and get all the benefits that a lawful permanent resident has, such as:
    • Have much lower tuition fees than a foreign student.
    • Have the right to work legally.
how to get a job in the united states while being illegal

If you want to know more about how to get a job in the United States while it is illegal, you can find a publication dedicated to it on our website.

Who Qualifies For SIJS?

Although the special juvenile immigrant status is created to protect all minors who have been the victim of abuse by their parents, they will need to meet certain minimum requirements for an SIJS. Those who qualify are:

Under 21 Years Of Age

The first condition for SIJS is to be under 21 years old at the time of submitting Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow (er), or Special Immigrant .

Minors Living In The United States

The next condition is that the minor is currently living in the US. An SIJS application cannot be submitted from abroad.

The minor applicant must be in the country at the time of filing the petition and at the time the USCIS makes the decision on the petition.

An Unmarried Minor

The applicant must be single at all times, either because he has never married or if he/she was, the marriage was dissolved by annulment, widowhood or divorce. 

A Minor With An Order Issued By A Juvenile Court

You must have an order from a juvenile court showing whether:

  • You are a dependent of a court or are in the custody of any state agency or department designated by the court. 
  • You cannot be reunited with either of your parents, either because of:
    • Abandonment.
    • Abuse.
    • Abuse
    • Negligence.

In case you return to your country of origin or last residence of your parents, it will not be very beneficial to you.

There are exceptions in which you do not need to be under juvenile court jurisdiction if the order shows that:

  • You are adopted or in permanent custody, or:
  • You have exceeded the age limit of the juvenile court.

Minors Chosen By USCIS Consent

USCIS will determine that you are seeking an order from the juvenile court to obtain support against mistreatment, abuse, neglect or abandonment and not to benefit from any immigration benefits. 

juvenile status for special immigrants

A Minor With Written Consent From HHS

You must have written consent from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) / Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) if:

  • You are currently in HHS custody.
  • The juvenile court order changed his status or custody. 

State Juvenile Court Orders

In order for you to apply for special juvenile immigrant status, you must have a valid court order issued by the juvenile court. You must know that:

  • State juvenile courts only issue orders based on state custody or dependency laws.
  • If the child has been the victim of abuse, neglect, or abandonment by their parents, USCIS does not require that the juvenile court be charged with placing the child in the custody of a parent for family reunification.
  • Juvenile courts can vary depending on the state where an SIJS is requested.
sijs status in the united states

Although state juvenile courts have the authority to provide protection to minors, they do not have the authority to enforce the legal orders of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

USCIS may grant or deny an application to the SIJS program or a Green Card. 

How To File A SIJS Petition?

To file a SIJS petition you will need to submit the following documents and forms to USCIS: 

  • Form I-360.
  • 1 evidence of your age. You will have to present one of the following documents:
    • Passport.
    • Birth certificate.
    • Any identification document issued by a foreign government, either:
      • Identity document.
      • Identity card.
      • Driver’s license.
      • Other legal documents that prove your age.

After Filing The SIJS Petition

  • Once you file Form I-360, USCIS will be responsible for:
    • Send you a Notice of Action that will be your receipt, it will show the official filing date.
    • They will contact you to obtain additional evidence if a decision on the case is necessary.
  • If you also filed Form I-485, USCIS:
    • They will send you a notification for an appointment where your biometric data (fingerprints, photographs, signature, etc.) will be taken.
    • They will contact you for additional evidence or an appointment with an immigration officer if necessary.
  • They will also ask you to submit Form I-693, Immunization Record and Medical Report if you do not submit it on Form I-485.

If you are applying for SIJS or a Green Card, you do not need to contact the person or family of the person who abused, abandoned or neglected you.

USCIS Decisions

Generally, USCIS will make decisions on the SIJS petition within a period of no more than 180 days (approximately 6 months) from the date you submitted the application.

  • Although USCIS attaches Form I-360 within 180 days, this timeframe will not apply to Form I-485.
  • In the event your petition is approved, USCIS will send you an approval notice.

Regarding the Green Card based on SIJS classification (Form I-485), USCIS:

  • Will send the approval notice and you will become a lawful permanent resident on the same date of approval of Form I-485.
  • The approval date will be indicated on the approval notice sent to you on your Green Card or Form I-551.
  • If your request is denied, a written request will be sent to you stating the reason. You cannot appeal it, but you can file a reconsideration in immigration court.

You can check your case on the official case status page online or contact the following number directly: 800-375-5283. You can also schedule an appointment if your petition or application is pending at one of the USCIS offices.

Obtaining The Green Card Based On SIJS

If you were granted SIJS classification, it means that your Form I-360 has been successfully approved. 

You can apply for a Green Card by filing Form I-485, this is also known as an application for Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status or Adjustment of Status.

If a visa number is available to you, you can normally file Form I-360 and Form I-485 at the same time.

Immigrant visas come from the fourth preference (EB-4) for special immigrants, in case there is no immigrant visa available, you will be able to file a Form I-360 but you will have to wait to file Form I-485.

You can learn more about these visas in our dedicated articles on the:

Advantages And Disadvantages Of SIJS status

special immigrant juvenile status benefits

Applying for a SIJS has its advantages and disadvantages to take into account, among them we can find:

Advantages Of Applying For An SIJS status

  • It will not be necessary for the minor to have legally entered the US, they can enter the country undocumented and still apply for special immigrant juvenile status.
  • Undocumented minors will not be required to prove any financial support.
  • Generally, minors applying for SIJS will not need to pay the application fees for a Green Card. 

Disadvantages Of Applying For An SIJS status

  • Children who received SIJS status will never be allowed to apply for any immigration benefits on behalf of their parents. They will not be able to file a petition for immigration status on behalf of either parent. 
  • Asylees who become LPR (and USC) can later request that certain family members immigrate to the United States
    • Therefore, if only one parent was abusive or neglectful with the child, the minor will never be able to petition his other parent.
  • Children when requesting an SIJS give up the right to request their parents, regardless of the type of abuse or neglect they have received from them.
  • USCIS creates a visa limit, so applicants will have to wait until their I-360 petition is approved. Therefore, the child will not be able to legally work in the United States while his petition is pending.

If you came to the United States as a child and fear deportation, DACA could be a way to get cancellation of removal. On our website, you will find a publication dedicated to the DACA application requirements.

How Can I Get Papers For A Minor Who Suffers Violence Or Minor negligence?

On some occasions, you will need to know how to obtain papers for a minor who suffers violence or minor negligence, so you will need to know the following information:

Becoming A Guardian Of Minors

Non-family or relative guardians are those adults who, without having a blood bond, care about the well-being of the minor in a situation of risk or helplessness. 

These adults who are trying through a foster care process (SIJS Status or Asylum) are appointed by law as guardians.

On our website, you can find a publication dedicated to the asylum process in the United States.

In the history of the guardians, there are teachers, uncles and aunts, grandparents, social workers, police, health professionals, migrant mothers, single people who have responded to the call to protect the minor.

All minors deserve a guardian or tutor who ensures their integral development.

What Does Integral Development Include?

Ideally, the guardian will assume the commitment to provide these resources, thus ensuring the minor a better lifestyle with new and better experiences.

This is to encourage and strengthen the development of all areas that encompass the development and safety of a minor.

The SIJS status or juvenile visa is that is given to minors who have suffered violence, experienced abandonment or neglect by one or both parents.

The main benefit of this visa is that it allows the reception and protection of minors in situations of vulnerability and risk.

Recent Changes In The SIJS Process 

Some of the recent changes to the Special immigrant juvenile status process include:

  • Total removal of the requirement that the juvenile court deem a child eligible for long-term care.
  • The court may consider that a family reunification between the child with one or both parents may not be feasible for their health and safety.
  • It will no longer be necessary for a child to have previously been in foster care or with the child welfare system.
  • The minor may be eligible despite having been the victim of abuse, neglect or neglect and still living with the other parent.

What Is Really Considered Minor Negligence And Abuse?

The law establishes that abandonment, minor negligence and abuse are considered under the following characteristics:

Abandonment

  • One or both parents refuse to take custody of the minor.
  • One or both of the minor’s parents do not provide any required supervision or support.
  • The minor does not receive the support of a parent for at least a year or more.
  • Only one parent is aware of the care of him.
  • The minor has been abandoned by both parents or have died.

Negligence

  • The minor does not have sufficient financial resources to feed himself.
  • The minor has dropped out of school.
  • The child is forced to work against his will from an early age.
  • The child has an emotional problem due to the attitude or behavior of his parents.
  • Parents do not protect the minor from youth violence, bullying or similar.

Abuse

  • There is a physical or sexual assault on the minor by one or both parents.
  • The minor is forced to participate in illegal activities, such as prostitution, trafficking or human trafficking. 
human trafficking and migrant smuggling

You can get more information about what is human trafficking and smuggling on our website and find out the T visa requirements. In the same way, if you are a victim of abuse, knowing what the VAWA visa is will be of your interest to face this type of situation. At Curbelo Law we are very aware of these cases and we have been handling them for years, do not hesitate to call us.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Special immigrant juvenile status

Issues related to special juvenile immigrant status are frequent in our office. If you want concrete help on your case, contact us today. Only by knowing the details and if a specific situation can we give you personalized information in our professional consultation.

Can I Apply For An SIJS If I Am In Removal Or Deportation Proceedings?

If you are in removal or deportation proceedings you may still become eligible for a Green Card under the SIJS program. However, petitions usually end within about six months from the date you file it.

If your SIJS is approved, the necessary steps will be taken to finalize the deportation or removal proceedings.

We invite you to learn what TPS is in the USA, as it can be a way to avoid deportation by having temporary protection in the United States.

Are There Any Risks When I Apply For A SIJS?

There is minimal risk when applying for SIJS, which would be getting a court order to support your application. However, if immigration rejects your application, you could be at risk of deportation or transfer.

If I Don’t Meet The Requirements For An SIJS, Can I Get A Green Card?

If you are not eligible to apply for an SIJS, you may be able to obtain a Green Card through other methods, such as:

What Can The Firm Of Curbelo Law Do For You?

The special immigrant juvenile status procedure can be very complicated without the help of an experienced attorney to support you through the process. These cases involve certain factors both for family law and its components. Therefore, you will require the help of someone experienced to explain both pieces of immigration legislation to you.

Attorney Carolina T. Curbelo, our immigration attorney in New Jersey, will provide you with a legal process with the professionalism that you deserve, our honor is to represent you in any immigration case.

This immigration relief expires when the child reaches the age of majority, you must act quickly and go to a lawyer to determine if you may be eligible. Call today and get a private consultation for all kinds of questions or requirements you need.