Special Immigrant Juveniles: Application Process, FAQs, and Qualifications

Special Immigrant Juveniles: Application Process, FAQs, and Qualifications

Special Immigrant Juveniles, also known as SIJs, are classified as children who have been subject to state juvenile court related to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or similar. The Special Immigration Juvenile Green Card allows them to seek lawful permanent residence in the United States as determined by the USCIS.

Eligibility

An applicant must meet the following set of requirements to qualify for a Special Immigrant Juvenile Green Card:

  • Be under the age of 21 at the time they file the SIJ petition
  • Be currently living in the United States at the time they file the SIJ petition and at the time USCIS makes their decision
  • Be unmarried at the time they file the petition and when USCIS makes their decision
  • They have a juvenile court order that confirms your situation, stating you cannot live with one or both of your parents or guardians due to abusive behavior

In the United States, a juvenile state court must find that you are dependent on the court or in custody of a state agency and cannot be united with one or both parents due to neglect, abuse, abandonment, or similar.

Speak with an experienced SIJS lawyer if you have questions about your eligibility for SIJS. Recognizing abuse can be challenging sometimes. According to the Center for Disease Control, child abuse typically falls into four categories:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect

About 1 in 7 children experience child abuse in the United States, resulting in long-term effects on a child’s emotional and mental well-being, their health and their opportunities throughout their life. Chronic abuse can result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and endanger a child’s learning and development.

Abuse looks different in every situation. Child abuse is not just physical — there might not be a physical bruise, but it is still abuse. Anything that results in harm, potential harm, or threat of harm is abusive. If you or someone you know have experienced neglect or abuse, you may be eligible to be a special immigrant juvenile. If you are a child wondering about SIJS immigration but having doubts about whether you have been abused or neglected, consult a professional. We can help you move forward in your SIJS process.

SIJS Process: Application and Procedures

The process of applying for the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is for children who wish to obtain a green card because they experience/d abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment and cannot return to their home country. The SIJS process takes three steps. An experienced SIJS lawyer is able to help you during each step in applying for SIJS immigration.

Step 1: Juvenile State Court Proceedings

In order to be eligible for SIJS, the state court must find that the child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by either one or both of their parents. The state court must also find that returning to their home country is not in the child’s best interest.

A child may enter the court system in a number of ways, some not on their own accord. Somebody, such as a neighbor or witness, may report a family to the police, Child Protective Services, or a child welfare agency. It’s also possible for the parent or family member who is not abusive to report abuse or fight for custody of the child. Additionally, it is possible for a family member or other adult to petition to be the legal guardian of the child. If the child does not have lawful permanent residency (LPR) in the United States, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status may be a potential option.

The actual court proceedings are where your SIJS lawyer will present the case to the judge that the child has experienced neglect, abuse, and abandonment and should not return to their home country. Here, evidence needs to be presented proving abuse such as:

  • Testimonies from family members
  • Testimony from the child
  • Witness affidavits
  • Medical records
  • Police reports
  • Social worker’s reports
  • Statements from teachers
  • Any other evidence that shows the child has experienced abuse

Working with an experienced SIJS attorney can help you navigate through the proceedings and help you present the necessary evidence during your case.

Step 2: How to Petition for SIJS Classification

In order to petition for a green card based on Special Immigrant Juvenile Classification, you must complete and submit Form I-360. Though this form is necessary, many additional forms need to be petitioned for and submitted with Form I-360. For example, you also have to properly fill out Form I-485, Application to Register for Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The process of petitioning for SIJS status and permanent residency are completed at the same time.

In addition to Form I-360, you will need to provide supporting documentation on the following:

  • Evidence of your age by birth certificate, passport, or other official identity document issued by a foreign government
  • Juvenile court order
  • Form I-485
  • Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
  • Written consent from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Form G-28

Filling out these forms can get complicated quickly. Getting help from an SIJS immigration lawyer will ensure all forms are filled out correctly and sent to the USCIS in a timely manner. It is also important to let your attorney know if you have had any altercation with the law — transparency with your attorney is key.

Step 3: Petition for Permanent Residency for Special Immigrant Juvenile Green Card

As stated above, Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence or Adjustment of Status, can be filed at the same time as your SIJS application. That being said, the acceptance or denial of permanent residency can only be determined after a child becomes a special immigrant juvenile. If you do gain SIJ immigrant status, you may be able to file Form I-912 to waive the fee for permanent residency.

If your petition has been approved and you are granted SIJ classification, you may be eligible for a Green Card by filing Form I-485. This process is also known as applying for lawful permanent residence. After you have applied for a Green Card, the USCIS will send you an informed notice of action which is your official receipt for filing. If any additional evidence is needed, you will be contacted by the USCIS. Decisions by the USCIS generally take about 6 months from the date you filed. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Can I Work If I Have SIJS?

When you receive SIJS approval, you are not allowed to work. If you are of age and are applying for permanent residency, you can also apply for employment authorization. You also need to attend school if you are under the age of 18. School systems do have set standards in place for how much you can work. You may be able to apply for a school work permit in addition to immigration work permit.

Can I Travel With SIJS?

If you only have your SIJS, you cannot leave and re-enter the United States. Once your permanent residency is approved, then you are able to travel in and out of the U.S. Still, staying out of the United States for more than six months may lead to complications regarding your permanent residency.

Can I Bring Family Members?

You are not able to bring family members to the United States. Under SIJS, you cannot petition for your parents, even if just one of them was abusive and the other was/is not.

What Is the SL6 Green Card?

The SL6 green card originated in 1990. It is now commonly known as a SIJS visa, or Special Immigrant Juvenile.

Contact an Immigration Attorney Today

At Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C., we provide individuals and families with the legal representation they need. The attorneys at our office have If you or a loved one are filing or petitioning for Special Immigrant Juvenile status, we’re here to help. Contact a member of our team today at 312.444.1940.

We're looking forward to hearing from you!