Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Procedures to obtain a green card for children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned and whose interests will not be served by returning them to their home country.

Immigrant children who have experienced abuse suffer the same emotional and physical problems as abused U.S. citizen children — and often more. Added to the other insecurities facing them, immigrant youth without documentation will not be able to work legally or qualify for in-state tuition at college, and face the constant threat of deportation.

Help is available. Federal immigration law provides that dependent immigrant children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both of their parents and whose best interest is to remain in the United States can apply for lawful permanent residency (a "green card") as "special immigrant juveniles."

Step One: State Court Finding of Neglect, Abuse, or Abandonment

A child is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status only if a court in the state where he or she lives finds the child is neglected, abused, or abandoned by one or both parents, and that it is not in the child's best interest to return to his or her home country. Court terms, procedures, and legal standards vary from state to state.

Types of State Court Proceedings

A child who is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJ) most often makes it into the state court system in one of these three ways:

  1. A nonabusive parent or other family member may petition for custody in family court as part of a divorce or paternity case, alleging abuse, neglect, or abandonment by the one of the parents.
  2. A family member or friend may petition in court to be the legal guardian of the child. This option is often used when the parents have left the child with a friend or relative, and have stopped taking care of the child, but no reports have been made to police or child welfare authorities. In many states, this is done in probate court.
  3. A family may be reported to the police or child welfare agency because of abuse or neglect of children. Such a case may enter the juvenile court system in order to determine whether the child should be made a ward of the state or placed with a private guardian.

In any of these circumstances, Immigration Solutions LLC can represent the child’s interests in the state court proceedings and ask the court to make the findings necessary for the child to petition for SIJ Status. 

Common Procedures to Obtain a State Court Finding of Abuse, Abandonment, or Neglect

Irrespective of the process, a child or juvenile will need to bring the abuse, neglect, or abandonment to the attention of the court, and will need to show the judge that it is not in his/her best interest to return to his or her home country.

The child and family members can expect to be interviewed and may need to testify in court. As much evidence as possible should be gathered to show the abuse, neglect, or abandonment — for example, medical records and reports by police, teachers, or social workers. Affidavits may be needed from witnesses in the child's home country, also.

The court process can take many weeks. Most states require advance notice to the parents and the child about the court proceedings. Special rules may apply for serving notice on parents outside the United States. The court may also order a background check on a potential guardian.

Step Two, Petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Once a state court has found that the child was abused, neglected, or abandoned, and that it is not in his or her best interest to return to his or her home country, the child may file a petition with U.S.C.I.S. requesting Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. It is important to note that the child must file the petition while the court order is still in effect. In most cases, this means that the child must file the petition before turning 18 years old.

U.S.C.I.S. is required to make a decision on the petition within 180 days from the time it was submitted.

Step 3, Application for Permanent Residency

Juveniles that have been granted SIJ status are immediately eligible to file for Permanent Resident Status (a.k.a “Green Card” status).  If the child is not in Removal Proceedings in front of an Immigration Judge, the child can file his or her application for Permanent Resident Status at the same time as his or her petition for SIJ status.  If the child is in Removal Proceedings, the child would need to get his or her petition for SIJ status approved before filing a green card application. 

Filing for SIJ status can be complicated and overwhelming.  Please seek help and call us an experienced 617-536-0584 or email us at info@immsolutionsllc.com