What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)?
What is SIJS?
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a visa status available for certain undocumented immigrant children in the U.S. who are unable to reunify with one or both of their parents for reasons of abuse, neglect, abandonment and who meet certain other criteria. If a child successfully obtains SIJS status, they may be able to obtain lawful permanent resident immigration status.
SIJS is a unique immigration remedy which requires the involvement of both a state court (such as the Circuit Court for Montgomery County) and the Federal immigration court. Before proceeding with the immigration portion of a SIJS case, the state court must first make certain findings and issue orders for custody or guardianship and an SIJS predicate order. These findings involve determinations that reunification with one or both parents is not viable for the child due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or similar grounds under state law. The state court also appoints a responsible adult as the guardian or custodian of the child.
Who is eligible for SIJS?
The child must be present in the U.S. and demonstrate that:
1. The child is under 21 years of age;
2. The child is unmarried;
3. The child has been declared dependent on a juvenile court located in the U.S. or has been legally committed to, or placed under the custody of, an agency or department of a State, or an individual or entity appointed by a State or juvenile court located in the U.S.;
4. Reunification with one or both of the child’s parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis found under State law;
5. A determination has been made in administrative or judicial proceedings that it would not be in the child’s best interest to be returned to the child’s or parent's previous country of nationality or country of last habitual residence.
What does the SIJS process entail?
A child may not proceed to file a SIJS petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) until an SIJS predicate order from the state court is obtained. Note that the state court is not granting a child lawful immigration status because that responsibility lies solely with USCIS. The state court’s role in the process is simply to make the factual determinations necessary for SIJS eligibility. Once a SIJS predicate order is entered, the child may proceed with the immigration phase of the case by submitting the SIJS petition to USCIS.
If you have questions about eligibility and the SIJS process please do not hesitate to contact our experienced and Spanish-speaking team by calling 301-563-6685.