Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

What is Special Immigrant Youth Status?
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is a form of immigration relief available to undocumented children living in the United States who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by at least one parent and meet several other eligibility requirements. Special immigrant juvenile status provides a pathway to citizenship, but also involves multiple processes in family law and immigration law practice.
 
What are the requirements for Special Immigrant Youth Status?
Minors must demonstrate:

  • under the age of 21

    • The Immigration and Nationality Act defines minors under the age of 21 as unmarried persons. However, in some states, the definition of "minor" in local family law may limit this age to under 18.

  • unmarried

  • cannot be reunited with at least one parent due to abuse, abandonment or neglect or other similar reasons under state law

    • Abandonment, abuse or neglect are not clearly defined in immigration and nationality laws - states can define on a case-by-case basis.

  • Abuse, abandonment, neglect or other similar circumstances occurred before their 18th birthday

  • It is not in their best interests to return to their most recent country of residence/nationality

  • It is declared dependent on a juvenile court located in the United States, or the juvenile court lawfully places the minor in the custody of a state agency or department or person or entity.

How can I apply for SIJS?
Applying for SIJS requires two steps: Obtaining a predicate order from a state court that can determine custody and care of children and submitting an actual petition for SIJS with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. 

Will I have to go to Immigration Court?
An SIJS petition to submit to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office- not the local immigration court. However, if you are already in immigration proceedings with your local immigration court, you will also have to attend your hearings and update the immigration judge on the status of your SIJS petition. It is highly recommended that you seek representation for all aspects of your case including any state court proceeding, immigration court proceedings, and pending petitions with USCIS. 

What is a predicate order and how do I get one?
A predicate order is a document of special factual findings that affirms that the SIJS applicant meets the eligibility requirements for SIJS. To obtain a predicate order, the SIJS applicant must present a case before a juvenile court. The SIJS applicant must present a case for a legal cause of action or legal remedy. The SIJS predicate order is not considered a legal remedy by itself. Instead, a predicate order is often initiated as an additional request to a qualifying legal remedy. This request is made by submitting a motion.  After successfully presenting the case and submitting the motion for SIJS findings, the Judge will issue the predicate order. 

What is a Juvenile Court and what are common legal remedies?
Juvenile Courts are courts that have jurisdiction or authority over the custody or care of children. In Maryland, Circuit Courts are declared juvenile courts because they are authorized to make decisions regarding a child’s best interest, custody, guardianships, and other matters. An SIJS applicant who desires to present a case before the Circuit Court, must go the Circuit Court in the county they live in. 

After identifying the appropriate court, the applicant must determine whether they have an appropriate cause of action or legal remedy to be in front of the Circuit Court. In Maryland, the commonly sought legal remedies are determinations of Guardianship, Custody, Dependency, or Delinquency (explained below):

  • Custody: A legal remedy where the court gives one or both parents the authority to make significant decisions on the child’s behalf including welfare, education, religious training, and healthcare. Usually, SIJS applicants may be living with one parent who is seeking sole custody of their child. Additionally, custody can be awarded to a defacto parent or other third person so long as they meet the requirements for third party custody. 

  • Guardianship: A legal remedy where a non-parent adults (any relative or family friend over 21) asks the Court for the legal authority to make decisions about the child’s care or property. In Maryland, the child and all living parents (or custodians) must consent to the guardianship. Usually, this is pursued by SIJS applicants who are not living with either parent.

  • Dependency and Delinquency hearings are hearings that are commonly heard by juvenile courts when a juvenile requires foster care or has gotten in trouble with the law. In these hearings, an SIJS applicant can ask the court overseeing these hearings to make an SIJS determination. 


How do I submit a SIJS petition to USCIS and what is USCIS?
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office is the federal agency that has been designated by the government to oversee immigration to the United States. To submit an SIJS petition, an SIJS applicant must submit a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant to USCIS along with certain required pieces of evidence. The evidence includes, but is not limited to, the state predicate order, copy of your birth certificate (or any official identity document that establishes your age).   It is highly recommended that an SIJS applicant seek an immigration attorney to represent them throughout the USCIS process.

What happens after I submit a SIJS petition to USCIS?
A USCIS officer will review your petition and assign a priority date. The Officer may approve or deny the petition, or issue a request for more evidence before making a final determination.  After the SIJS petition is approved, the priority date will determine when the child can apply for Legal Permanent Residency (a green card). 

What are the benefits of SIJS?
A child who is awarded SIJS and is involved in immigration proceedings for deportation or removability will now possess a defense against deportability or removability. 

Also, a child granted with SIJS may apply for Legal Permanent Residency, and eventually, for citizenship. When a child applies for legal permanent residency, they may also apply for a work permit pending the approval of their residency application. 

What are the disadvantages or limitations of SIJS? 
Children who obtain lawful permanent residence through an approved SIJS petition cannot acquire or petition for green cards for their parents. Although most legal permanent residents and citizens are entitled to petition for the lawful permanent residence for their parents, children who obtained their legal status through SIJS give up this right- regardless of which parent abused, abandoned, or neglected them.

Generally, USCIS creates a “cap” for each type of visa they issue. Because of this, some SIJS applicants, depending on their country of origin, may have to wait years after receiving an approval of the I-360 petition. This can cause stress to applicants whose priorities and desires change with age. For example, a child who must wait to file an a petition for legal permanent residency, will not be able to lawfully work in this country for the years they wait- regardless of their age or need. 

What are the risks in applying for SIJS?
There are always risks in filing any application with any entity or institution. When filing a petition, willingly gives another person or agency access to personal information for better or worse. USCIS can use the information to determine a person’s eligibility for SIJS benefits or report the same information to other agencies or persons that may have in interest in enforcing other laws. It is important that anyone interested in SIJS consult with an attorney regarding the specific risks in their case.

Blumsack & Canzano, P.C.
In a world of uncertainty, you and your family may want to maximize their choices—both in terms of lifestyle and opportunities. Whatever your motivation, Blumsack & Canzano, P.C. always has trusted immigration advisors. We deliver comprehensive solutions and a seamless immigration experience for you, your family, and your advisors around the world.

 

The experienced immigration lawyers at Blumsack & Canzano, P.C. provide various legal services to employers, employees, individuals, and families in the Boston area and other areas. Immigration issues are complex, and if they are not handled properly, they may have serious impacts. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are committed to providing customers with comprehensive solutions in all areas of immigration law.