Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
Thousands of children and minors arrive in the U.S. each year unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian. The number has increased dramatically in recent years, in large part due to rampant gang violence, extreme poverty, and unstable country conditions in Central and South America.
Once in the United States, if the child is not in foster care, then there needs to be an individual willing and able to seek and obtain either guardianship or custody of the child. By virtue of the juvenile court deciding the guardianship or custody petition or the child being in foster care, the child is deemed to be dependent on a juvenile court. It is possible for one parent to seek custody of the child and then file for SIJS due to the other parent’s abuse, neglect or abandonment.
In order to qualify for SIJS, the juvenile must meet the following five factors:
The juvenile is under twenty-one years of age
AGE OUT WARNING! Although federal regulations provide that an applicant may apply until age 21, a child will “age out” of eligibility for Special *Immigrant Juvenile Status at age 18 in Texas because the child will cease to be under the jurisdiction of a “juvenile” court.
The juvenile is unmarried;
The juvenile is dependent on the family/juvenile court or placed in the custody of an agency or state department or an individual or entity appointed by a state or juvenile court;
Reunification with one or both of the juvenile’s parents is not viable due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a similar basis found under state law; and
It would not be in the best interest of the juvenile to be returned to the juvenile’s home country.
Advantages and Disadvantages to Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
Some advantages to obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile status include that the minor child does not need to have entered the U.S. legally and is not required to show any means of financial support—both of which are barriers to most other types of green card approvals.
Also, Special Immigrant Juveniles are one of only a few types of immigrant applicants who are eligible to have the fee for a green card application waived.
A disadvantage of the green card option under the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status program is that a child who is granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is never legally permitted to file any immigrant petition for either parent. Therefore, if only one parent was abusive or neglectful, the child will still never be able to petition for the nonabusive parent to get a green card.
State Court Procedures
For SIJS purposes, a SAPCR suit may be brought by any of the following persons:
- A child‟s grandparent;
- A child‟s relative;
- A child‟s foster parent; or
- A non-parent adult, provided certain statutory requirements are met.
Some changes to the state court process include eliminating the requirement that the court find the child “eligible for long-term foster care.” Now a child need not have been in foster care or the child welfare system at all to be eligible for designation as an SIJ. Additionally, the court may find the child’s reunification with one or both parents is not viable. The child may have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one parent and be living with the other parent and be eligible for SIJS.
What Are the Benefits of Obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?
Obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) offers significant benefits for immigrant youth. This status, designated by juvenile courts, provides a pathway for these young individuals to remain legally in the United States.
As special immigrant juveniles, they can apply for lawful permanent residency, which is a major step toward building a stable future in the country. SIJS also offers protection from deportation under deferred action, adding a layer of security for these vulnerable juveniles.
Additionally, applicants of immigrant juvenile status SIJS may be eligible for a fee waiver, reducing the financial burden often associated with immigration processes.
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Our One-Stop Shop
For a consultation, contact The Law Office of Tatiane M. Silva, P.A., Miami-based Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Attorney.
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