Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a form of immigration relief available to certain undocumented minors in the United States who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both parents. Here are the benefits and the process for obtaining SIJS:

Benefits of SIJS:

  1. Legal Permanent Residency: SIJS leads to lawful permanent residency (a green card). Once a child receives SIJS, they can live and work permanently in the United States.
  2. Protection from Removal: It provides protection from deportation or removal proceedings.
  3. Path to Citizenship: As lawful permanent residents, children receiving SIJS are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship five years after receiving their green card.
  4. Work Authorization: Upon approval of the SIJS petition, beneficiaries can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which allows them to work legally in the U.S.
  5. Federal and State Benefits: Depending on age and state law, they may become eligible for certain federal and state benefits.
  6. No Dependency on Family Petition: Unlike other family-based immigration processes, SIJS does not require a family member to petition on behalf of the minor.

Process of Applying for SIJS:

  1. Dependency Court Order: The process begins by obtaining an order from a state juvenile court (such as a family court) in the United States that declares the minor dependent on the court or places the minor under the custody of an agency or a state-appointed individual.
  2. Judicial Findings: The state court must also make specific findings based on state law that the minor has been abused, neglected, abandoned, or similarly mistreated by one or both parents, and it is not in the minor’s best interest to be returned to their home country.
  3. Petition for SIJS: After obtaining the state court order, an I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant must be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This petition includes the state court order and findings.
  4. USCIS Adjudication: USCIS will review the I-360 petition and the accompanying evidence to determine whether the minor qualifies for SIJS. The minor can apply for lawful permanent residence if the petition is approved.
  5. Adjustment of Status: The final step is for the minor to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If a visa is immediately available (often for SIJS applicants), they can file Form I-485 concurrently with or immediately after the I-360 petition.
  6. Biometrics and Interview: The minor may be required to attend a biometrics appointment and possibly an interview, although interviews are often waived for children.
  7. Final Decision: If the adjustment of status application is approved, the minor becomes a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

Given the complex nature of SIJS and the intersection of state and federal law, individuals or their guardians should seek the assistance of an attorney specializing in immigration law, particularly one with experience in SIJS cases, to navigate this process. Contact us today to learn more about Konare Law.

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