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Helping You With Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is a form of relief under the U.S. Immigration Laws that helps certain undocumented children in the state juvenile system to obtain lawful immigration status. Persons under the jurisdiction of a juvenile court who are “deemed eligible for long-term foster care” may be able to obtain special immigrant juvenile status and based on that apply for legal permanent residency (a green card). To do this, they must submit two applications and meet two sets of requirements, one in the state family court and one in the federal immigration system:

  1. They must apply for special immigrant juvenile status and;
  2. Based on the special immigrant juvenile application, they must also apply for permanent residency (the green card).

In immigration terminology, applying for permanent residency is called applying for adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident. The Immigration & Nationality Act provides that an applicant must meet the following criteria to qualify for SIJS:

Dependency, Delinquency, or Other Juvenile Court Proceedings 

The applicant either must be a dependent of a juvenile court, or a juvenile court must have had the applicant legally committed to, or placed under the custody of an agency or department of a state. This should include children in delinquency as well as dependency proceedings. A dependency proceeding can also include a child who has been placed in a legal guardianship situation.

The Applicant Must Have Been “Deemed Eligible for Long Term Foster Care” 

The child must be “deemed eligible for long term foster care” by the juvenile court. This phrase means that the court has founded that family re-unification is not a viable option. Usually at that point the child will go into foster care, adoption or a guardianship. Thus, the child must be in a permanent placement phase and not reunified with a parent or still going through reunification.

The Court Must Rule That It Is Not In The Child’s Best Interest To Be Returned To Her Home Country 

Generally the juvenile court will include in its SIJS order that it is not in the child’s best interest to be returned to the home country. The evidence of this finding may range from a home study conducted by a foreign social service agency or simply interviewing the child to learn that there are no known appropriate family members in the home country.

The Court Must Make It Clear That It Makes Its Findings and Orders Based on Abuse, Neglect or Abandonment of the Child 

A specific finding about “abuse, neglect and abandonment” is required. The juvenile court judge’s order must specifically identify whether abuse, neglect or abandonment was the basis for the dependency or placement order and for deeming the child eligible for long term foster care.

The Juvenile Court Judge Must Sign An Order Making the Above Finding 

The juvenile court must sign a special order usually prepared by the child’s attorney stating that all the findings required for SIJS have been met.

Other Requirements 

The juvenile court must retain jurisdiction, applicant must be under age twenty one and unmarried.

Current immigration regulations require that the applicant remain under the juvenile court jurisdiction until the immigration application is finally decided and the applicant is a legal permanent resident. Some juvenile courts will not retain jurisdiction after age eighteen. In most jurisdictions, the immigration procedure must be complete prior to the child turning eighteen.

The Process To Residency

Appearance In Court Required

When a juvenile is seeking a dependency order from the Probate Court, a hearing is always required. The attorney must prepare paperwork and file it with the State Court and attend a hearing in either the probate or juvenile court in the jurisdiction where the juvenile resides.

Application for Legal Permanent Residence 

Obtaining legal permanent residence through SIJS is a two step process. After the Probate Court grants the guardianship or dependency order, the petition for SIJS status must be filed with the Immigration Service. Along with the application for SIJS, the child must file an application for permanent residency.   Besides meeting the above requirements for SIJS, the child must fulfill other requirements that apply to all persons who become legal permanent residents of the United States.

Applicants can be barred from permanent residency if they have done certain “bad acts” in the United States. These are called grounds of inadmissibility. The applicants must show that they are not subject to any grounds of inadmissibility in order to become a legal permanent resident. If they are, they may be eligible for discretionary waivers.

If your case results in lawful permanent residency, the applicant will have the right to live and work permanently in the United States and to travel in and out of the country. While public benefits (welfare/medicare) for some permanent residents have been drastically curtailed, permanent residents are eligible for some benefits initially and more as time goes on. Also, after five years permanent residents can apply for U.S. citizenship.

Let’s Get Started On Your Immigration Petition

If you have been the victim of crime or abuse either abroad or in the U.S., our attorneys want to help you. Call our Boston, Massachusetts, office at 617-855-0444 or send us an email to schedule a confidential consultation.