Certain immigrants under 21 years of age who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both of their parents may qualify for an immigration classification called Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ). If SIJ classification is granted, these immigrants can qualify for a Green Card. To be eligible for this status, the alien must meet the following requirements: be under 21 years old; be currently living in the United States; be unmarried; have a valid juvenile court order from a State Court declaring them a dependent or under custody of someone else; have a court order that says that reuniting with one or both parents is no longer viable due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment; and have it not be in their best interests to return to their country of nationality. Obtaining this status has many benefits since it waives various types of inadmissibility such as unlawful entry or working without authorization. Once someone receives this status, he/she will be able to adjust to get a Green Card, obtain work authorization, and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.
The first step to get Special Immigrant Juvenile status is to engage in a proceeding in the Family Court in the county in which they reside. They must obtain a “special findings order” during this proceeding. Once they have this order, they can apply to USCIS for SIJ status.
To petition for SIJ classification, the alien must file the Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. Along with this, they must submit evidence of their age, a valid juvenile court order, and other documentation.
If they are currently in the United States and an SIJ visa is immediately available, the alien can file Form I-485 or the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status concurrently with the SIJ application. However, this is not always possible, and sometimes they must apply for the Green Card after the SIJ application is pending or approved. USCIS generally makes decisions on SIJ petitions within 180 days from the official filing date, but this time frame does not include if they ask for more information or if the I-485 form was submitted. Waiting times are currently significantly increased due to office closures from the pandemic. It is important to note that if the Green Card is granted with the underlying basis of Special Immigrant Juvenile, then the alien may never petition either of their parents to receive a Green Card, no matter if they were abusive or not.
If you think you or someone you know may qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile status, please contact the Shulman Law Group so we can determine eligibility and assist with your case.