Immigrant children brought to the United States are the most vulnerable demographic that needs assistance and protection from the law. The Special Immigrant Juvenile process is created to provide the security and justice that they deserve. Obtaining a Special Immigrant Juvenile status can give the at-risk child a chance to have a bright future in the United States.
The Special Immigrant Juvenile process is time-sensitive yet highly beneficial for the at-risk child. It is a complicated process that involves numerous courts and paperwork. The assistance of an accomplished immigration lawyer can help an applicant navigate through the complex requirements for obtaining the Special Immigrant Juvenile status.
What is the Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status?
The Special Immigrant Juvenile is a visa status created by the United States to offer legal protection to children brought to the country either legally or illegally and who have been abused, neglected, abandoned, or mistreated while in the United States. This special status aims to protect these children from being sent back to the same dangerous environment they were living in.
Who is Eligible for the Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status?
To be eligible under the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJ), an applicant must meet the following criteria:
- Must be under 21 years old at the time of filing for the SIJ Petition.
- Must be living in the United States at the time of the filing of the SIJ Petition and at the time that USCIS renders their decision.
- Must be unmarried at the time of the filing of the SIJ Petition and at the time that USCIS issues their decision.
- Must be eligible for USCIS consent at the time USCIS makes its decision.
- Must have written permission from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to the court’s jurisdiction if at the time of the USCIS’ decision, the applicant is in the custody of HHS, and the juvenile court order changes the applicant’s custody status or placement.
- A valid state court order proves the applicant is either a dependent of the state agency or department; cannot be reunited with their parents due to neglect, abuse, or abandonment; and it is not in the child’s best interest to return to their country of origin.
What are the Steps to Obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Classification Status?
The steps to file for a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Classification status are as follows:
- The applicant must fill out Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
- Present evidence of their age, which must be submitted in a certified English translation, if needed. One of the following documents can show proof of age:
- Birth certificate;
- Passport; or
- Official identity documents issued by a foreign government.
- Present a valid juvenile state court order that states the required determinations and includes evidence of the factual basis for the court’s findings.
- If the applicant is in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) custody, they must provide written consent from the HHS; and a juvenile court order states changes to your custody or placement status.
- If a lawyer or an accredited representative represents the applicant, they must file a Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative.
How Long Does it Take for the USCIS to Issue Their Decision on a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Application?
It typically takes the state court process six months to a year and 180 days for the USCIS to determine whether the applicant is granted a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status.
Can an Individual File for Lawful Permanent Residency (Green Card) After Being Granted a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ)?
An individual that has been granted a Special Immigrant Juvenile status can file for Lawful Permanent Residency (Green Card) by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
What are the Grounds for Inadmissibility to Obtain Lawful Permanent Residency (Green Card) for an Individual Granted a Special Immigration Juvenile (SIJ) Status?
However, an applicant who is eligible for a Special Immigrant status based on the criteria listed above may still be rendered inadmissible to obtain lawful permanent residency if the applicant:
- Has a mental or physical disorder that makes them a risk to others or the property of others;
- Is a prostitute or a pimp;
- Is a drug abuser or addict; or
- Is a human trafficker.
In this instance, a help of a seasoned attorney might be able to help and get an applicant’s inadmissibility waived based on their circumstances.
Can an Individual File for Permanent Residency (Green Card) Before Being Granted a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ)?
An applicant may be able to file their Form I-485 simultaneously as their Form I-360 application if an immigrant visa is immediately available. However, immigrant visas for SIJs are categorized under employment-based fourth preference (EB-4) for special immigrants. They are subject to waiting time depending on the priority date and visa availability processing time of the USCIS.
The current schedule on immigrant visa availability can be accessed through the USCIS’ Visa Availability and Priority Dates chart.
The requirements set for this special status are particular and time-sensitive. The help of an experienced lawyer is valuable to ensure that the child applicant receives proper guidance and representation to obtain an affirmative decision from the USCIS. If you need assistance in filing for a Special Immigrant Juvenile application and representation, give us a call (225) 963-9638, or you can go to our website at www.messerfirm.com.