Some children who are here in the United States without legal immigration status may need humanitarian protection because sadly they have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent. Special immigrant juvenile status is an immigration classification that may allow these vulnerable children to apply for lawful permanent resident status, commonly known as having a Green Card.
To qualify to submit a petition for SIJS, there are many requirements that must be met, and the sooner you speak to an experienced immigration attorney who can guide you in the process, the better your chances of meeting all the requirements on time. To get a glimpse of the importance of having qualified legal representation, let’s look at some of the requirements.
The child must be declared dependent on a juvenile court located in the United States, or the court must have legally committed the child to or placed the child under the custody of, an agency or department of a state, or an individual or entity by a state or juvenile court.
A juvenile court must find that reunification with one or both of the immigrant’s parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis found under state law.
A judge or administrative authority must have determined that the return to the child’s or parent’s country of nationality or country of last habitual residence is not in the child’s best interest. Additionally, the child must be under 21 at time of submitting the SIJS petition and must be unmarried and remain unmarried pending the completion of the process.
Once you obtain a state order for dependency, guardianship, adoption or delinquency proceedings, then the child may move forward with an affirmative SIJS petition if the child is not in removal proceedings. Processing times will depend on the child’s country of nationality; for some, there is a visa available immediately, while others may have to wait several years.
If the child is in removal proceedings and the case is pending before an immigration court, then the child will move forward with a defensive SIJS petition, which may be a bit more complex, and will require other steps. However, if everything goes well, the child becomes a lawful permanent resident, and may apply to become a citizen of the United States after accruing five years of lawful permanent residence and is over 18 years of age.
One very important point to remember is that, even if the child becomes a lawful permanent resident and eventually a citizen, she can never petition for her parents due to the nature of SIJS findings: abuse, abandonment, and/or neglect.
Are you aware of a child who may qualify for SIJS? If so, please seek legal help. If you have any questions about SIJS, the requirements, and what forms to file, please call our office to schedule an appointment. We are happy to guide you through this very important process in a child’s life.