Undocumented immigrant children and youths living in the United States who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent may be able to obtain a Special Immigrant Juvenile classification, commonly referred to as an SIJ. Children may apply for this status up to 21 years of age. If they are granted an SIJ Visa, they may qualify for lawful permanent residence. SIJ status can also be used as a defense in removal proceedings.
To obtain an SIJ classification, the child must prove that they have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by one or both parents and the reunification is not in their best interests.
Applicants must also meet other eligibility criteria (reference table below). Ultimately, if the process is
General Eligibility for SIJ Classification
|AGE||Under 21 years of age at the time of filing the SIJ petition (Form I-360).|
|LOCATION||Currently living in the U.S at the time of filing the SIJ petition and at the time that USCIS decides on the petition. This includes:
o Living in the care or custody of a family member or caregiver prior to arrival in the U.S. or while in the U.S.
o Living in federal custody of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Unaccompanied Children’s Services Programs, Office of Refugee Resettlement, or
o Living in the state child welfare system in the custody of a state agency.
|MARITAL STATUS||Unmarried – either never been legally married or previously married, but the marriage ended through death, annulment, or divorce at the time of filing the SIJ petition and when USCIS decides on the petition.|
|COURT ORDERS||Applicants should have a juvenile court order(s) that was issued in the U.S. which finds that:
– They are dependent or in the custody of a state agency or individual that has been appointed by the court.
– It is not viable to be reunified with one or both parents because of abandonment, abuse, or neglect and
– It is not in their best interest to return to your country of nationality
|> Note: You may be subject to other requirements <|
** Please note that everyone’s circumstances are different, and this blog is purely informative and intended for a general overview of the program. It is not intended to replace the legal advice of an attorney for specific cases – to find out if you or someone else is eligible for this relief, call us at 781-592-466 or request a consultation here with Attorney Nancy Norman. **
This unique process generally consists of three steps.
STEP 1: Proceedings in State Juvenile Court
The first step is to seek an order from a state juvenile or family court judge. This order may involve adoption, guardianship, or custody. Keep in mind that requirements for court filings vary from state to state. Although there are distinctions within the requirements for the initial proceedings, the overall endgame is to encourage the federal government to make the one of the findings in the table above. (Reference “Court Orders”) The juvenile court must also have jurisdiction under the state law to make required judicial determinations about the custody or care proceedings of the juvenile.
STEP 2: File I-360 (SIJ) Petition with USCIS
Once it is determined that the applicant is eligible to apply for an SIJ Visa, the second step is to file the Form I-360, also known as a Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The following documentation should be included:
- Evidence of age – one of the following:
- Valid Passport
- Birth Certificate
- Other documents that satisfactorily the age of the applicant
- Valid juvenile court order – This order should include the required determinations and supporting evidence of the factual basis for the court’s determinations.
- Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative – This is better known as the Form G-28.
- If applicable – Written consent from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – This would be needed if the juvenile court order changes the applicant’s custody placement or status and the applicant in HHS custody.
Once the I-360 Petition is filed, USCIS will assign a priority date. This can be found on the receipt notice that USCIS will mail the applicant indicating they have received the petition. It also determines when the applicant is eligible to apply for an immigrant visa. There is a Visa Bulletin chart that is issued by the State Department on a monthly basis that determines visa availabilities for different visa categories and countries. This is where the applicant can track whether their corresponding priority date is current. Immigrant visas for juveniles with an approved I-360 are processed through the employment based -fourth preference category (EB-4).
For more information on Visa Availability & Priority Dates, click here.
STEP 3: File I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status w/ USCIS
The final step in this process, once USCIS has approved the I-360 and the applicant has been granted SIJ classification, is to file Form I-485 with USCIS. The applicant will then receive a receipt notice indicating the application is being processed. USCIS will also send a biometrics appointment notice and will require the applicant to obtain a medical exam from a verified medical doctor. For those in removal proceedings, the application for permanent residence will be adjudicated by an immigration judge.
Every case is unique, and the circumstances may be different, that is why it is important to seek an experienced attorney to have this process done correctly. We are here to guide and help you with the process but most importantly we want to ensure that your rights are protected.