United States immigration law includes several specialized statuses designed to protect vulnerable populations. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is one such designation, providing a path to lawful permanent residence for immigrant children who have faced abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Immigrant children are defined as those who are under 21 years old.
What is SIJS?
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a humanitarian immigration benefit designed to protect immigrant children in the United States who have been subject to abuse and other types of harm. It recognizes the unique vulnerabilities of these young individuals and aims to provide them with a secure and stable environment. Some examples of situations in which a child might be eligible for SIJS include:
- Abandonment by Both Parents — A child may be eligible for SIJS if both parents have abandoned them, leaving the child without proper care or supervision.
- Abuse or Neglect by One or Both Parents — SIJS may be granted if a child has experienced physical, emotional, or psychological abuse, or neglect by one or both parents.
- Death of One or Both Parents — If one or both parents have passed away, leaving the child without proper care or supervision, the child may be eligible for SIJS.
- Conflict with Local Laws or Customs — Children who face persecution or danger due to local laws or customs related to their family situation, such as discrimination based on race, religion, or other protected factors, may qualify for SIJS.
- Human Trafficking — Children who have been victims of human trafficking, forced labor, or exploitation may be eligible for SIJS.
- Forced Child Marriage — Children forced into marriage or facing the threat of forced marriage, especially in cases where this situation results in abuse or neglect, may qualify for SIJS.
- Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Discrimination — LGBTQ+ children who face persecution, discrimination, or violence due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in their home country may be eligible for SIJS.
- Living in Unsafe Conditions — Children living in unsafe or dangerous conditions, such as war zones, conflict areas, or areas with high levels of violence, may be eligible for SIJS.
Qualifying Criteria for SIJS
To be eligible for SIJS, an individual must meet all of the following criteria:
- Age Requirement — They must be under 21 years old at the time of filing the SIJS petition.
- Dependency on the Juvenile Court — They must have been declared dependent on a juvenile court in the United States or legally committed to, or placed under the custody of, an individual or state agency.
- Legal Findings — The juvenile court must make specific findings related to abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and that it is not in the child's best interest to return to their home country.
- Eligibility under State Law — The state laws in the jurisdiction of the juvenile court must determine that the child cannot be reunified with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
What are the Benefits of SIJS?
Securing Special Immigrant Juvenile Status comes with significant benefits. For starters, SIJS waives certain types of inadmissibility that would normally prevent an immigrant from getting a green card, such as unlawful entry and working without authorization. The primary benefits of SIJS include:
- Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card) — SIJS recipients are eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence (LPR) or a green card.
- Work Authorization — SIJS applicants can obtain work authorization, allowing them to legally work in the United States.
What is the Process to Obtain SIJS and Lawful Permanent Residence?
It’s important to note that SIJS petitions and other immigrant applications are typically initiated by the child's legal guardian or a court-appointed entity responsible for the child's welfare. The process to obtain SIJS and LPR involves several steps, and different individuals or entities play different roles:
- Dependency Order from Juvenile Court — The first step is to obtain a dependency order from a juvenile court in the county where the child resides. This order must include the necessary findings related to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and the child's best interest.
- Petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — The child must then apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status with USCIS. Once approved, they become eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence.
- File Forms to Adjust Status — Once the child receives SIJS, they will be able to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident and obtain work authorization. Eventually, they will also be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.
- Biometrics Appointment and Interview — USCIS typically requires biometrics and may schedule an interview to verify the eligibility and authenticity of the application.
- Issuance of Green Card — Upon successful completion of the process, including any required interviews, the child will be issued a green card, granting them lawful permanent residence.
The process to apply for SIJS and adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident is complex and requires extensive supporting evidence, timely and accurate filing, and extreme attention to detail. Having skilled legal counsel by your side is essential.
Reach Out to Yekrangi & Associates and Seek Guidance for SIJS Today
If you or someone you know is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), seeking guidance from the experienced immigration attorneys at Yekrangi & Associates can ensure a smooth and successful application process. Our knowledgeable and compassionate team is here to assist you in understanding your options, meeting the necessary requirements, and securing a brighter future for your children through SIJS. Contact us today for more information.
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