Written by attorney Ivan Henry Mousaw

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) Requirements

For Children to be eligible to apply to CIS(Citizenship and Immigration Services) for SIJS, a state “juvenile court" must first make several findings of fact. The immigration regulations define a state “juvenile court" as “a court located in the United States having jurisdiction under State law to make judicial determinations about custody and care of juveniles." Under the law, the juvenile court does not make any immigration decisions, but rather, makes factual findings concerning the child. The juvenile court (and not CIS) makes these findings because it is the court with expertise in, juvenile matters. The required findings are as follows:

1) The child is dependent upon the juvenile court or has been legally committed to, or placed under the custody of, an agency or department of State, or an individual or entity appointed by a State or juvenile court, within meaning of;

2) The child reunification with one or both parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment

3) The juvenile is “eligible for long-term foster care" due to abuse, neglect or abandonment

4) It is not in the “best interest" of the child to be returned to her or his parents’ previous country of nationality or country of last habitual residence

Special Immigrant Juveniles must be unmarried and under the age of 21. This definition is consistent with the INA’s definition of “child" as a person under the age of 21. By definition a “juvenile" is a person who is under the age of 21. The law allows young persons who have reached the age of majority (18) to qualify for SIJS. In doing so, Congress made the SIJS eligibility standard consistent throughout the different states and under the different state juvenile laws.

Factual findings by a juvenile court will not entitle the children to SIJS or to lawful permanent residence in the Unites States. Rather, the Court’s findings are a prerequisite to filling an application for immigration relief. Without the court order, the children cannot petition CIS for SIJS. They must submit the order to CIS as part of their application packet for SIJS. Based on their SIJS application, they can also apply for lawful permanent residency. CIS retains the discretionary authority to approve or to deny the children’s application.

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