Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is an immigration benefit that is available to children in the U.S. who:
- Have been declared dependent on a juvenile court or where a juvenile court has placed the child in the custody of an individual or an agency.
- The individual can be a parent.
- Whose reunification is not a viable option with one or both parents due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect
- The abuse, abandonment or neglect could have occurred inside or outside the U.S.
- The juvenile court has made a determination that it is not in the child’s best interest to return to their country of nationality or country where they lived prior to coming to the U.S.
An approved SIJS petition gives children access to apply for lawful permanent residence status (green card) once their priority date is current. Unfortunately, due to current backlogs it could be several years before a child is eligible to apply. In the meantime, children with approved SIJS petitions who are granted deferred action are eligible to apply for a work permit that will be valid for four years.
How do I apply?
SIJS is the only immigration benefit that involves both the state court as well as immigration. Why? Because immigration decided that state courts are better able to make the determination regarding care and custody of children. As such, the first step is to file the necessary state court action where a judge can make the factual determinations above.
Once you have the requisite state court order you then file Form I-360 with the necessary documentation which includes the custody order and proof of identity such as the child’s birth certificate.
It is important to note:
- The child must remain unmarried until Form I-360 is adjudicated.
- Although a child can apply for SIJS until they are 21 years old, state law determines whether a child can obtain the necessary order from the “juvenile court” to apply for SIJS. For instance, in Florida once a child turns 18 years old, they are considered an adult and can no longer go to state court to request the necessary order to apply for SIJS.
- A child who obtains lawful permanent resident status due to SIJS will never be able to petition for his/her parents, this includes the parent that was granted custody and did not abuse, abandon or neglect the child
Examples of children who may qualify for SIJS:
- Jose who was abandoned by his father and currently lives with his mother in the U.S.
- Maria who was the victim of domestic violence by her parents in Guatemala who is currently living with her older sister in the U.S.
- Carlos who is currently in the foster care system and is being adopted by his foster parents.
- Paola who was forced to work in Honduras in order to support her alcoholic parents and siblings and was never able to go to school.
Our attorney Adriana Dinis has been handling SIJS cases since 2008. She frequently provides training to attorneys on the topic and recently presented at the 2023 American Immigration Lawyer Association National Conference in Orlando, Florida.
If you have any questions, contact our office at (727) 471-0677.