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Certain immigrant minors currently in the US may be eligible to apply for special immigrant juvenile status.

Since the application process must begin when the alien is a minor, this status must be processed before reaching the age of majority. Our immigration lawyers in New Jersey can guide you through the process.

What Is The Special Immigrant Juvenile Status In 2024

Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) is the status that allows minors to remain legally in the United States. However, this status is only granted to minors who are victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment by a parent.

  • The SIJ is another path to obtain the Green Card. Therefore, a minor alien could become a lawful permanent resident in the United States.
  • Since the SIJ application process requires that the applicant be a minor, it is important to identify if the immigrant still qualifies for this status. This is because the immigrant may be too old to benefit from SIJ.
  • This immigration relief seeks to protect vulnerable minors under the category of “Special Immigrant.”

In our blog you can learn more about the legislation and rights of unaccompanied immigrant minors.

What Is A Special Immigrant?

A special immigrant is a national foreigner who qualifies for a Green Card after meeting certain requirements. Depending on the Green Card classification, either the employer or the alien will need to file an application with USCIS.

Some examples of special immigrant status involve special juvenile aliens and fourth preference employment-based immigration (EB-4 visa).

juvenile status for special immigrants

Benefits Of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJ)

Being eligible for the SIJS program brings with it multiple benefits for the minor. Among the most notable are:

  • Becoming a legal permanent resident in the US
  • Remain legally in the US and get all the benefits of a lawful permanent resident, such as:
    • Have much lower tuition fees than a foreign student. For example, those who hold the F-1 student visa.
    • Be eligible later to apply for the process to obtain American citizenship.
    • Being able to freely enter and leave the US.
    • Have the right to legally work in the country through an employment authorization.
how to get a job in the united states while being illegal

Undocumented immigrants often ask us: “How to get a job in the United States while being illegal”. If you are one of them, we invite you to learn more about this topic in our respective article.

Requirements To Qualify For Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

In accordance with the requirements established by the laws: 8 US Code § 1101 and 8 CFR § 204.11, to qualify for SIJ, the immigrant must:

  • Be under 21 years of age.
  • Single. This means that they have never been married or were previously married but the marriage ended by annulment, death, or divorce.
  • Currently living in the United States. This means that you cannot apply from abroad.
  • Have a written consent. This consent will be from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) if:
    • You are currently in HHS custody, and
    • The juvenile court order changes your custody or placement status.
  • Be eligible for USCIS consent. This means that you must have sought a juvenile court order to obtain relief from abuse, abandonment or neglect and not to obtain an immigration benefit.
  • Have a valid juvenile court order. Such an order must be issued by the US state court.

Not sure if you qualify for this immigration relief? Don’t worry, there are other immigration programs available to temporarily avoid deportation. Check our blogs “ What is TPS status” and “DACA application requirements”.

Court Order Issued By A State Juvenile Court

The state court must determine that the immigrant:

  • Depends on the court or is in the custody of any agency, state department, individual, or entity designated by the court.
  • You cannot be reunited with one or both parents due to any of the following factors:
    • Abandonment.
    • Abuse.
    • Negligence.
    • A similar basis under state law.

Likewise, the court will assess whether returning to their country of origin or last residence (or that of their parents) is not in the best interests of the immigrant.

For more information regarding this or when to apply, contact our firm. Attorney Carolina T. Curbelo will explain this process step by step.

Documents To Apply For The Green Card Under The SIJ Classification

Immigrants who will apply for permanent residence under the SIJ must submit the following documentation to USCIS:

  • Form I-485, application to register permanent residence or adjustment of status.
  • Copy of Form I-797, approval notice or receipt.
  • Two recent passport type photographs.
  • Copy of government-issued ID that has a photograph (if required).
  • Copy of the birth certificate.
  • Copy of passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if available).
  • Copy of the passport page with the admission stamp or temporary stay permit (if available).
  • Copy of Form I-94, arrival/departure record, or a copy of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document.
  • Form I-693 , report of medical examination and immunization record.
  • Certified police and court records on any type of criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (if required).
  • Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (if required).
  • Past or present J-1 or J-2 immigrant documents (if applicable). This includes Form I-612, Application for Waiver of Foreign Residency Requirement.
sijs status in the united states

Application For Employment And Travel Authorization

Minors classified as SIJ may apply for employment authorization while their I-485 is pending. To do this, they must submit to USCIS Form I-765, application for employment authorization.

If they need to leave the US temporarily while their I-485 is pending, they should follow the instructions on Form I-131 , Application for Travel Document.

How To File A Petition For Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status?

To file a petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) classification, the immigrant must provide the following forms and documents to USCIS:

  • Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
  • Evidence of age. For example, any of the following documents:
    • Passport.
    • Birth certificate.
    • Any identification document issued by a foreign government, either:
      • Identity card or card.
      • Driver’s license.
      • Other documents legally proving your age.
  • Valid order of a juvenile court in the United States.
  • Form G-28, Notice to Appear as Attorney or Accredited Representative. This in case you have a lawyer or accredited representative to represent you.
  • HHS Written Consent. If you are in HHS custody and the juvenile court order also changes your location or custody status.

After Filing The SIJ Petition

  • Once the immigrant files the I-360 form, USCIS will be in charge of:
    • Send you a notice of action, which will be your receipt and show the official filing date.
    • Contact the alien to obtain additional evidence. This will be if necessary when making a decision on the case.
  • If the immigrant also filed Form I-485, USCIS:
    • They will send you a notification for an appointment where your biometric data (fingerprints, photographs, signature and so on) will be taken.
    • The immigrant will be contacted to obtain additional evidence or an appointment with an immigration officer if necessary.
  • You will also be required to file Form I-693, if you do not file Form I-485.

If the immigrant applies for SIJ or a Green Card, they will not need to contact the individual or the family of the individual who abused, abandoned, or neglected them.

USCIS Decisions

Generally, USCIS will make decisions on SIJS petitions within a period of no more than 180 days (approximately 6 months) from the date an alien filed the application.

  • If the petition is approved: USCIS will send you an approval notice.
  • If the petition is denied: You will be sent a written decision telling you how to appeal an immigration decision.

Immigrants can check their case on the official online case status page 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.

How Do I Get A Green Card Through Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

To be eligible to obtain the Green Card under the SIJ classification, the alien must meet the following criteria:

  • Submit Form I-485 to USCIS.
  • Have been inspected and admitted or inspected and placed on a parole for temporary stay in the United States. 
  • Be physically present in the US at the time you file Form I-485.
  • Be eligible to obtain an immigrant visa.
  • An immigrant visa is immediately available when Form I-485 is filed and when USCIS makes a final decision on the application.
  • You are admissible to the US for lawful permanent residence, or you are eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other immigration relief.
  • None of the prohibitions on adjustment of status in the United States apply to you .
  • It deserves a favorable exercise of USCIS discretion.

Are you currently in removal proceedings? You may be eligible for a stay of deportation or to apply for cancellation of removal.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of SIJ

special immigrant juvenile status benefits

Advantages Of Applying For The SIJ

  • It will not be necessary for the minor to have entered the US legally. They can enter the country undocumented and still apply for an SIJ.
  • Undocumented minors will not be required to prove any financial support.
  • In general, minors who apply for the SIJ will not need to pay the application fees for a Green Card. 

Disadvantages Of Applying For The SIJ

  • Children who received SIJ status will never be allowed to apply for any immigration benefits on behalf of their parents. Therefore, they will not be able to file an immigration status petition on behalf of either parent. 
  • When children apply for SIJ, they give up the right to apply to their parents, regardless of the type of abuse or neglect they have received from them.
  • USCIS creates a visa limit, so applicants must wait until their I-360 petition is approved. As a result, the child will not be able to legally work in the United States while their petition is pending.

Recent Changes In The SIJ Process 

Some of the recent changes to the SIJ process include:

  • The complete removal of the requirement that the juvenile court consider 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 viable for their own 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 child may be eligible for SIJ even though they have been abused, neglected or abandoned by one of their parents and continue to live with the other parent.

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

If the alien does not meet the requirements to apply for a SIJ, they could obtain a Green Card through other methods, such as:

What Is Really Considered Abandonment, Neglect And Abuse?

The laws establish that it is considered abandonment, negligence and abuse 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 one of his parents for at least a year or more.
  • Only a parent is aware of the care of the minor.
  • The minor has been abandoned by both parents or they have died.

Negligence

  • The minor does not have sufficient economic resources to feed himself.
  • The minor has dropped out of school.
  • Minors are forced to work against their 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 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. 

On our website, you can find articles focused on issues such as abuse, abandonment and neglect:

What Is The Difference Between Asylum And SIJ Status?

Asylum process in the United States and special juvenile immigration status have their differences:

asylum: 

  • Protect immigrants fleeing persecution in their country of origin.
  • To qualify, the immigrant must fear persecution, whether based on political opinion, race, religion, nationality, or belonging to a certain social group. 
  • The alien must have one year of entry into the US to file the application.

SIJ:

  • Protects immigrant minors who are abandoned, neglected, or abused by one or both parents.
  • To qualify, the immigrant must be a minor (18 or 21 depending on the state) and unmarried.
  • The immigrant must have the interest of not returning to their country of origin.
asylum based on domestic violence

Have you experienced domestic violence? You may be interested in reading our article on asylum based on domestic violence.

How Long Does It Take For The SIJ Applicant To Obtain The Green Card?

As a general rule, USCIS is required to decide within 180 days after receipt of the SIJ application. However, this can take between 8 and 12 months.

Frequently Asked Questions About Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Is the SIJ a permanent immigration relief?

Obtaining the SIJ is not an end in itself. This means that being classified as a special immigrant juvenile status will not be permanent, since the minor must apply for permanent residence.

What are the drawbacks of SIJ?

The main drawback is that a minor under the SIJ classification will cease to be a “minor” of their parents for immigration purposes. This means that their parents will not receive any legal status through the minor. Even if the minor becomes a citizen, they will not be able to apply for their parents.

What happens if a minor is inadmissible for SIJ?

Generally, applicants for lawful permanent residence must show that they are admissible to the US. This means that they must not be inadmissible for any reason set forth in 8 US § 1255.

Do minors have to be enrolled in school to qualify for SIJ?

It is not a requirement for the SIJ to be enrolled in a school. However, this may increase the chances of a favorable outcome if the child attends school. 

Will the permanent residence obtained by the SIJ status be permanent?

Unlike US citizenship, lawful permanent residence can be revoked or canceled for certain reasons. Some reasons for this are criminal conduct and/or absences from the United States.

SIJS attorney in New Jersey

The special immigrant juvenile status procedure can be very complicated without the help of an experienced attorney to support the immigrant in the process. 

  • These cases involve certain factors for both family law and its components. 
  • Therefore, the help of someone experienced to explain both parts of immigration legislation will be required.
  • Our SIJS immigration attorney in Ridgewood, New Jersey; Carolina Curbelo has obtained different immigration reliefs for hundreds of aliens with the professionalism they deserve.

The SIJ expires when the child reaches the age of majority, so you must act quickly and contact our lawyer to determine if you can be eligible or not. Call us today so we can examine your situation and help you effectively.