Unfortunately, there are undocumented juveniles all across America who are unaccompanied by adults because they have been abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both parents. These children might qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status(SIJS), which can open a path towards lawful permanent residency, commonly referred to as a Green Card. But there are strict qualifications for who can apply for and be granted this status.
What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?
SIJS grants an individual, who establishes they have been abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both parents, the chance to apply for permanent resident status due to their living conditions or the conditions of the home that they would be sent to if removed from the U.S. It provides protection to undocumented children who live in unstable homes. That includes if they live with parents, an aunt, uncle, or even grandparents.
Who is eligible for SIJS?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) mandates that eligible juveniles meet all of the requirements as described by the USCIS to be granted SIJ classification.
Those requirements are:
- They must be under 21 years old at the time of their SIJS filing.
- Currently living in the United States. Juveniles cannot apply outside the U.S. in order to be granted access here.
- Be unmarried. Previous marriage over through annulment, divorce, or death.
- Have a valid juvenile court order issued by a state court in the United States.
How to Receive a Valid State Court Order
Obtaining a valid juvenile court order means that a court determines, under the relevant state law, that the juvenile is dependent on the court, or is currently in the custody of a state agency or department or an individual or entity appointed by the court. And that the juvenile cannot be reunited with one or both parents due to any abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Additionally, the court must find that attempting to return them to their home country is not in the best interests of the juvenile.
Steps To Follow After Receiving a Valid Order
Once a juvenile has received a valid order, they must file a Form I-360, also known as a Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. They’ll provide their court order and proof of their age, which can be accomplished with a passport or birth certificate.
A priority date is assigned to the Form I-360 and will be listed on the receipt notice which confirms USCIS has received the petition. This date corresponds to the filing date and determines when a visa is available. Immigrant visas for individuals with approved I-360s are processed through the employment based-fourth preference (EB-4) immigrant visa category. An individual may submit a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to obtain a green card when their priority date is current on the Visa Bulletin for their country of origin (Family-Sponsored Visas, Employment Sponsored Visas)
Reach Out to an Experienced Immigration Attorney
Antonini & Cohen is dedicated exclusively to immigration law. We believe in protecting these undocumented and unaccompanied juveniles to ensure that their voice is heard. If you believe you qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status or know someone who does, we want to be the ones fighting for what’s right.
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The attorneys at Antonini and Cohen create and defend the opportunity for individuals, families, and businesses to seek and achieve the American Dream. Visit us online or call us at (404) 850-9394.
Kathleen Hoyos is originally from New York. She was admitted to New York University as a Higher Education Opportunities Program Scholar and graduated in May of 2010 with a dual degree in Romance Languages and Economics. Kathleen is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Italian. Kathleen has worked full-time at Antonini & Cohen as a paralegal since June, 2010 while she pursued her Juris Doctor at Georgia State University. Kathleen received her law degree from Georgia State University in May, 2016 and continues to work at Antonini and Cohen as an associate attorney.