Special Immigrant Juveniles

Immigrant children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned can apply for special immigrant juvenile status. If you are granted this status, you may become a permanent resident or receive a green card.

Immigrant children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned can apply for special immigrant juvenile status. If you are granted this status, you may become a permanent resident or receive a green card.

This process is very time-sensitive but highly beneficial for the at-risk child. A state court must first determine the child was abused, neglected, or suffered similar circumstances and that it would not be in their best interests to return to their home country. Then, the child must start the application process before the age of 18. 

As this process involves both state and federal law and because a child’s well-being is on the line, it is best that an immigration attorney licensed in the child’s represents a child.

Benefits and disadvantages of the Special Immigrant Juveniles Program

There are many benefits to the special immigrant juveniles program. A child who receives this designation is eligible for federal assistance programs, which can relocate them and care for their basic needs.

Also, the program eligibility requirements are lower than many other forms of visas because it is intended to help abused children. The child need not have arrived in the U.S. legally, nor must they prove they can support themselves.

On the other hand, unlike other visa options, special immigrant juveniles can never petition for their biological family members. 

Who is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

In order to be eligible for the special immigrant juvenile program, the child must:

  • Be under the age of 18 when filing form I-360
  • Be in the U.S. when filing form I-360
  • Not be married

Further, a state court order must be in effect when filing form I-360, which proves:

  • You are a dependent of the court, state agency, or department.
  • You cannot be reunited with your parent due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or similar circumstances.
  • It is not in your best interests to return to your country of origin.

Grounds for inadmissibility as a Special Immigrant Juvenile

Children who are eligible to become a special immigrant juvenile may still be inadmissible to get a green card or permanent residency on the basis of:

  • A mental or physical disorder, which makes them a risk to people or property
  • Are a prostitute or pimp
  • Are a drug abuser or drug addict
  • Are an alien smuggler (human trafficker)

Even if a child is inadmissible, an attorney may be able to get their inadmissibility waived, based on their circumstances.

What if my child is in Removal Proceedings?

Removal proceedings do not make your child ineligible for the special immigrant juvenile process. In fact, most special immigrant juvenile proceedings are begun when a child is in removal (or deportation) proceedings.

How long does the process take?

Special immigrant juvenile cases are a high priority but involve several steps. The state court process may take six months to a year. USCIS should take an additional six months to make a decision about the child’s case. Most importantly, the country the child is from will determine how long the wait will be since there are a limited number of visas per year per country. This retrogressed priority date can delay SIJS cases by many years. 

How to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

The process for applying for special immigrant status includes:

  • Petitioning a juvenile court for a court order that proves your eligibility for the special immigrant juvenile
  • Submitting form I-360 Petition for a Special Immigrant to USCIS
  • Waiting for your Notice of Action from the USCIS
  • After you receive approval, petitioning for adjustment of status
  • Attending a biometrics appointment (your photo and fingerprints will be taken)
  • When requested by USCIS, submit form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
  • Waiting for a decision about your adjustment of status and receiving a green card

You will never be asked to contact the person who abused or neglected you during this process. However, the process is complicated, and USCIS may request more evidence of you. As you cannot appeal the decision (but can ask for it to be reopened or reconsidered), it is wise to have an immigration attorney to guide you and avoid denial.

What to submit

When you file your form I-360, you will need a variety of supporting documents, including:

  • Evidence of your age, which can include:
    • Birth certificate
    • Passport
    • Official ID card issued by a foreign government
    • Other documents are acceptable, refer to your attorney
  • Valid juvenile court orders, which establish you are eligible
  • If you are in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, written consent from them
  • If you have a lawyer representing you, form G-28 Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative

Must non-abusive parents go to Court?

If you are the parent of a child applying for special non-immigrant status, even the non-abusive parent, you may be required to attend various court dates. Most commonly, you are required to attend a pre-trial hearing and a full hearing.

Can I get a Green Card if my child is granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

No. Special immigrant juveniles may never sponsor their parents to become a permanent resident, even the non-abusive parent. The child is considered an orphan by law.

Employment authorization of Special Immigrant Juveniles

Those with special immigrant juvenile status may be granted employment authorization to work in the United States. However, the timing of when one can apply and obtain employment authorization can be extremely complex and lengthy. Contact Amaryllis Law today to help you navigate the nuances of SIJS. 

How can Amaryllis Law help?

Abused children are among the most vulnerable people and need the assistance of an attorney to get the justice and protection they need. The special immigrant juvenile process may, or may not, be in a child’s best interests. Whichever immigration method is best, Amaryllis Law can help the child through the process and give them the best chance of securing a future in the United States.

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