The SIJS is an immigration classification granted to undocumented immigrants who are younger than 21. An abusive past, neglect, or abandonment by one or both parents qualifies them for this class of visa. Once they receive it, the candidates can obtain legal US permanent residency.
The SIJS status is available to children who may have entered the US illegally, legally, or have an unlawful presence. We discuss the process to apply for an SIJS and its requirements in detail below.
Eligibility Requirements for Adjustment of Status
To obtain a green card, an SIJS visa applicant must:
- Be within the country when they file Form I-485 and do so correctly
- Go through inspection for either admission or parole when they enter the United States – this requires an approved Form I-360.
- Have the eligibility for an immigrant visa, which they receive immediately – even before the USCIS passes their verdict on the application. This refers to Form I-360 whether after it has been approved/is in pending/is filed along with I-485
- Be unable to get adjustment of status by alternate means
- Have other form of relief, such as a waiver of inadmissibility, if they aren’t admissible for lawful permanent residence
Advantages of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
There are other benefits to gaining the SIJS status besides protection from an abusive parent. For instance, the candidates entering the US illegally are still eligible. Moreover, whether they have the financial support or not, they are still granted the status.
Additionally, several types of inadmissibility are waived, so that the applicant may get a green card. After getting their SIJS label, a minor can obtain work authorization. Finally, they won’t be forced to go home and apply for their green card via consular processing.
Even with so many advantages, the SIJS status also comes with certain limitations. For instance, an applicant of that classification cannot sponsor siblings if they are in Lawful Permanent Resident status. They may never sponsor their parents, regardless of which one was responsible for their abuse, etc. The purpose of these limitations is the protection of the minor from future abuse. Therefore, they are treated as orphans.
Another disadvantage exists in the form of the cap on the number of visas issued in a year. That might delay the approval of an I-360 of an SIJS applicant. Based on their country of origin, that may not happen for many years! It can cause them stress. They won’t be allowed to work without lawful permanent status – which they will get after even more years.
Grounds of Inadmissibility
If an SIJS candidate applies for a green card, they may not get it because they are inadmissible. The reasons for being considered inadmissible are termed grounds of inadmissibility. We mentioned above that SIJs are exempt from some of the grounds of inadmissibility. Those include:
- Public Charge
- Present without admission or parole
- Unlawful Presence
- Labor Certification
- Documentation for Immigrants
To get relief, you will need a waiver or other document if you are declared inadmissible on any grounds besides those given above. File Form I-601 (waiver) and Form I-212 (for readmission after a deportation) may be needed. Once they are granted, the USCIS will approve your green card application.
For those considering starting the SIJS application process, here’s what you need to do:
Step #1: Court Determines a Child is Eligible for SIJ Status
The first step towards an SIJ classification is getting a valid (juvenile) court order. The said order has evidence that the child faced abuse, neglect, or abandonment. It can only be issued by a juvenile court of the state where the minor lives. The court will declare them a ward of the state or put them under the custody of a family member, guardian, or a state agency. Its findings will state that returning home is not in the child’s best interest.
The requirements for such a court order vary with state. Therefore, getting an attorney to help the process along is a smart idea. During this step, both the child and their family members may be interviewed. The court may ask them to testify, and the attorney provides ample evidence to prove the minor’s troubles, such as medical records, police reports, testimony from teachers or social workers, and witness affidavits from people in the child’s home country.
This process is time consuming and involves various complications, such as advance notices, background checks, etc.
Step #2: File a Petition Requesting Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
After obtaining a court order, the child’s attorney files a petition with USCIS, using Form I-360. The accompanying documents will include a birth certificate and copies of the court order. There is no filing fee. If the minor is older than 14, the petition must bear their own signature. In the presence of an attorney, a Form G-28 will also be required. This step is carried out in the time that the court order is still in effect.
The USCIS will review their application and may grant them the visa or a further request for evidence within 180 days of submission.
Step #3: Apply for Permanent Residency
For this step, you must submit the following documents:
- Form I-485
- Copy of the Form I-797 – not required if Form I-360 and Form I-485 are being filed together
- Photographs – passport style, two
- Copy of identity document, birth certificate, and passport page – with or without admission or parole stamp (if applicable)
- Copy of Form I-94, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission, or parole stamp
- Form I-693
- Certified police and court records if the minor crossed paths with law enforcement
- Form I-601
- Form I-212
All of this is included in a bundle that must be sent to the USCIS.
What Happens After You File?
An approved green card application will come with an approval notice and the status of permanent residency. In case of rejection, the USCIS will write to tell you why. Even though you cannot appeal, a motion to reopen, reconsider, or renewal is open to you. You can then file the Form I-290B to begin the process.
Contact Attorney Eric Price Today!
We urge the guardians of the minors who can qualify for the SIJS visa to contact Eric Price. His team can help answer any questions regarding the process. Remember that their status as a minor is what makes an abused child eligible for SIJS visa – and the protection it offers. So, hurry and apply for one before that passes!