SIJS 101: A Path Toward Residency & SecuritySpecial Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a humanitarian remedy that allows children who suffered abuse, abandonment, or neglect to apply for a special visa to remain in the United States. Available to children and young adults under the age of 21, it is an easier alternative than asylum and far safer than remaining undocumented or returning to dangerous or dehumanizing conditions back home.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status: Who It Is For & When It Is Needed

Imagine meeting a child who has just been allowed into the US to pursue asylum; they’re alone in a process they would normally go through with their family. Soon, it becomes apparent that one or both parents are missing. Maybe their stories about home are bleak, and their attitude and demeanor are concerning – so you start wondering what their life was like before they arrived.

As lawyers, translators, and social workers help children through the immigration process, it’s our job to ask these young clients questions about their circumstances back home. If they make an indication that they have suffered abuse, abandonment, or neglect in their past, we begin to dig a little deeper. Ultimately, we’re seeking out whether SIJS might be a viable option.

The truth is, SIJS is typically a lot easier to gain than asylum, so when you see an opportunity for it, it’s important to inform the child and their family. Even so, successfully applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is not necessarily easy – both in terms of navigating the US laws as well as the practical complications of dealing with difficult family situations across borders.

Starting The Process Begins With Serving Legal Notice

To obtain SIJS status, you have to obtain a state court order that states that the child has suffered abuse, abandonment, or neglect and that it is in their best interest to remain here in the United States. But before this order will be granted, you must serve notice to the child’s family, which can be the most challenging step of all.

Serving legal notice is required because you must let the family know that the child is applying for SIJS and that at least one of the parents, (the one who was abusive or who abandoned the child), will lose certain rights over them. The reason this tends to be so difficult is because many of these children come from rural areas where there is no regular mail service, making it challenging to give notice the way courts here require.

However, once the notice requirements are met, things tend to go more smoothly. The state court judges are very sympathetic to these cases, and if the files are prepared well, with enough evidence and a good declaration, the judges are inclined to grant SIJS for children who qualify.

The Information Needed At The Start Of A Case

To begin these proceedings, the legal documents of the child or young adult will be needed, including their basic civil documents such as a birth certificate, a passport, a national registry card, and, if they are unaccompanied, the Office of Refugee Resettlement document.

Next, the most important thing is to find out where the child’s parents are. If the child is with both parents, this part is easier. But if the child is with only one parent or no parent, we’ll need to locate the missing parent(s) so we can serve them the necessary legal documents. We also need to gather evidence demonstrating that one or both parents have been abusive, neglectful, or abandoned the child, as this is a key aspect of eligibility.

An attorney will then work directly with the child to prepare the application and collaborate with any family members who are present. This collaborative approach helps us to ensure that we’re placing the child in a safe environment and provides support to our arguments about the child’s home country and the conditions they faced there.

The SIJS Process Vs. Other Forms Of Immigration Relief Available For Minors

The main difference between SIJS and other immigration protections for minors is this: To get the special immigrant juvenile visa, you need to go to state court and get a predicate order. This order, typically granted by a family court or probate judge, gives another adult guardianship or full custody over the child.

To secure this order, the courts require proof that the child has suffered abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Additionally, the judge must agree that it is in the child’s best interests to remain here in the United States and not return to their home country. This can be a very difficult part of the process as it entails:

  • Preparing a series of forms about the child’s background,
  • Submitting a declaration to the court, and
  • Appearing before a judge where the child will need to talk about the abuse, abandonment, or neglect that they suffered in their home country at the hands of one or both of their parents.

Once that difficult hurdle has been crossed, the process becomes a waiting game, similar to many other visas and immigration procedures.

How Long A Minor Can Stay In The United States Under SIJS Status

If the case is approved, the child will be granted a Special Immigrant Juvenile Visa, which is valid for four years. The great thing about this visa is that it also allows them to apply for permanent residency. However, there are only a limited number of slots available for these visas, and some children may have to wait for four to five years before they can apply for permanent residence.

As long as the child doesn’t make any mistakes, avoids getting arrested, and doesn’t leave the country, they can stay in the United States under the protection of this visa for the full duration of the waiting period. What’s more, the child becomes eligible for employment authorization with an SIJS visa, allowing them to work legally if they are of age. They can also access certain public benefits and generally live, learn, and develop safely without any issues.

Extending SIJS Immigration Opportunities To Family Members

The U.S. government does not want to grant residency or provide immigration assistance to abusive parents. So, when a child obtains Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), they are not able to file immigration petitions for their parents. However, this restriction does not apply to the child’s siblings. Once an SIJS applicant becomes a U.S. citizen, (which typically occurs five years after obtaining residency), they can file a family petition to sponsor their siblings to come to the United States. This is a process we are happy to help guide them through – and we are delighted when one successful application can lead to improvements in many more lives.

For more information on Juveniles Who Need Immigrant Status Protection, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (626) 900-1714 today.

The Law Office Of Eloy Aguirre

Call Now To Get Help With Your Citizenship:
(626) 900-1714

Translate »
Accessibility Accessibility
× Accessibility Menu CTRL+U