Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, also referred to as “SIJS” is a remedy that allows undocumented children under the age of 21 years old to obtain lawful status in the United States. This unique process generally requires three steps.
First, one must seek an order from a state juvenile court judge. Once the order is obtained, the child’s newly appointed guardian may petition the immigration service on behalf of the child. Finally, upon approval of the special immigrant visa application, the child will be able to apply for adjustment of status with USCIS or at immigration court if the undocumented child is in removal proceedings.
First Step: Filing in State Juvenile Court
A state juvenile court has the authority to make a family law finding to protect the child. Each court has its unique requirements to initiate the order of specific findings for SIJS. Although the requirements to initiate proceedings are different, they are all tasked by the federal government to make the following findings according to proof:
1. The child is declared dependent on juvenile court, or legally committed or placed under the custody of state agency/ department or individual appointed by state/juvenile court.
2. That reunification with one or both child’s parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar basis under state law.
3. That is not in the best interest of the child to be returned to his/her country of nationality or last residence.
It is worthy to note that the definition of a “child” varies by jurisdiction. Generally, a “child” is defined as a young person that is below the legal age of majority, or “18 years old.” However, in the state of California, a “child” seeking a juvenile order for purposes of SIJS is anyone that is under the age of 21 years old. Additionally, the definitions of “abuse”, “neglect”, and “abandonment” vary by jurisdiction.
Second Step & Third Steps Special Immigrant Visa and Adjustment of Status
If an undocumented child is not in removal proceedings (before an immigration judge), then he/she may be able to concurrently apply with USCIS for a special immigrant juvenile visa using USCIS Form I-360, and adjustment of status using USCIS Form I-485, assuming that the priority date is current for that child’s native country.
However, if an undocumented child is in removal proceedings, then step two and three may not be concurrently filed with USCIS.
Although, applying for SIJS may seem a simple three step process, it is not. If you are an undocumented child under the age of 21 years old that arrived to the United States without one or both parents, it is important that you seek the help of a trusted attorney because you may be eligible for SIJS and not know it. Wilner & O’Reilly is a trusted and reputable law firm that is dedicated to the practice of immigration law. We have a team of qualified lawyers that have acquired years of experience in SIJS. Please feel free to contact us.
Wilner & O’Reilly is a multi-state law firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. During these uncertain times, we at Wilner & O’Reilly are closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 so that we can provide individuals with the up-to-date immigration information they need. For individualized advice on your immigration situation, please feel free to contact us. We offer free consultations at our offices in Orange, Riverside, Fresno, Sacramento, and San Francisco, California; Salt Lake City and Orem, Utah; and Boise, Idaho.
Richard M. Wilner is a founding member of Wilner & O’Reilly, APLC, and is Board Certified by the State Bar of California as a Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law. He is admitted to practice law in the State of California and before the U.S. District Courts for the Central, Northern and Southern Districts of California, the Northern District of Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Wilner has received the coveted Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, the highest legal and ethical rating that one can receive from one’s peers in the legal community. Similarly, he has been awarded the title of Super Lawyer from 2007 to the present. He is best known for his work in advising Fortune 500 companies, middle and small market businesses, entrepreneurs and foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in athletics, arts, and sciences in the complex area of U.S. Immigration and Nationality Law.