What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)?
Author: US Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova
Pursuant to INA § 101(a)(27)(J), under the classification of “Special Immigrant Juvenile”, certain undocumented individuals, who have been declared dependant on a juvenile court or placed in foster care, and whose reunification with one or both parents is not possible due to abuse, abandonment or neglect, can obtain legal immigration status. If the child is not in foster care, then there needs to be an individual willing and able to seek and obtain either guardianship or custody of the child. By virtue of the juvenile court deciding the guardianship or custody petition or the child being in foster care, the child is deemed to be dependent on a juvenile court. It is possible for one parent to seek custody of the child and then file for SIJS due to the other parent’s abuse, neglect or abandonment.
In order to qualify for SIJS, the juvenile must meet the following five factors:
- The juvenile is under twenty-one years of age;
- The juvenile is unmarried;
- The juvenile is dependent on the family/juvenile court or placed in the custody of an agency or state department or an individual or entity appointed by a state or juvenile court;
- Reunification with one or both of the juvenile’s parents is not viable due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a similar basis found under state law; and
- It would not be in the best interest of the juvenile to be returned to the juvenile’s home country.
In addition to these factors, the juvenile should be in school, and, unless employment authorization is granted, the juvenile should not be working in the United States. The juvenile should also avoid getting into any criminal trouble, particularly crimes which constitute deportable offenses. If successful in the SIJS application, the juvenile will receive a green card. For juveniles considering higher education, this is particularly beneficial since with the green card the juvenile can apply for financial aid. In addition, work authorization can also be granted for the juvenile to legally work in the United States. SIJS provides certain undocumented juveniles a path to citizenship in the United States.