There are over one million undocumented children currently living in the United States. Among those, many of these children are described as “unaccompanied minors” because they arrived without the protection of an adult. The Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (“SIJS”) provides hope for these children who have been left to navigate their lives, and the immigration laws, alone. If successful, SIJS leads to residency.
Acquiring SIJS is a two-court process. First, a state court must determine that the child is a dependant of the state court. Specifically, the state court must find that the child does not have a proper guardian or parent in the U.S., the child cannot be reunited with his/her parent due to abandonment, neglect, or abuse. In addition, the court must determine that it is not in the best interests of that child to be returned to the home country.
Once the state court has completed its work, the Citizenship and Immigration Service (“CIS”) will determine if the child meets the requirements for SIJS. To be considered, the child must:
be under 21 at the time of filing
be present in the United States at the time of filing
In addition, the order from the state family court must be in effect at the time of filing the petition with Immigration. Usually, the court’s orders expire when the child becomes 18 years old. However, attorneys can request extensions so that the dependency order remains in effect until CIS rules on the application for residency.
These children may also be eligible for cancellation of removal, U visas, asylum or withholding of removal. The important thing to remember is that each case, just like each child, is different. SIJS provides hope for these young children, who may be out of options otherwise, both here and in their home country.
This communication is intended as general information and not specific legal advice, and this communication does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consultation with an experienced competent immigration attorney is the best way to address individual concerns.