Posted by Christian K. Campbell
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is an immigration classification that allows minor children to obtain lawful permanent immigration status through the state juvenile system who meet certain criteria. The specific requirements include that the applicant be under 21 years old, unmarried, declared dependent in a juvenile court, that reunification with one or both minor’s parents is no longer viable because of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similarly situated state law, and it is not in the best interest of the minor to return to their native country.
There are a number of benefits and reasons why one should consider obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. As an immigration remedy, SIJS requires the involvement of a state juvenile court, rather than solely proceeding before federal immigration authorities. Obtaining an SIJS predicate order provides the basis for a minor child to apply for adjustment of their status to lawful permanent resident (LPR). LPR status allows a person to live and work permanently in the United States, travel outside of the United States, become eligible for certain public benefits, and apply for U.S. citizenship.
SIJS also waives several types of statutory bars that would otherwise prevent an immigrant from becoming a lawful permanent resident. This includes, but is not limited to, working without authorization, unlawful entry, undocumented status as a public charge, as well as other immigration violations. SIJS allows minors to circumvent these barriers to entry, and begin a pathway to citizenship that they otherwise may not be eligible for.
Furthermore, once an SIJS predicate order has been received and the applicant has filed for lawful permanent residence, the minor who may not be eligible for a work permit due to their age, may be eligible for a work authorization card. This is beneficial because a work authorization card can serve as a valid form of identification. As the minor ages, this will also allow them to be eligible to work and earn wages.
Additionally, filing for an SIJS application before the age of 21 prevents “aging out,” if the process were to continue beyond the strict age requirement. A child who files prior to the age of 21 may not later be denied solely on the basis of age. For custody of the minor to be considered, it is prudent to ensure that SIJS filings and petitions are resolved before the minor child reaches the age of 18.
Every SIJS case is different and are often complicated fact patterns. Navigating this process can be difficult and present challenges that require specialized expertise. If you have questions regarding this process, or if you or a loved one is eligible for SIJS, please contact us and ask to arrange a consultation.