Special Immigrant Juveniles, or SIJ, is a classification for certain undocumented immigrants under 21 who have faced parental abuse or neglect. There are five criteria for an immigrant to be eligible for the SIJ status:
- Must be under the age of 21
- Must be unmarried
- Must be declared as a dependent in Family Court
- Reunification with the child’s parents or guardians must no longer be an option due to parental mistreatment, abuse, neglect, etc.
- Returning to their country of nationality is not in the child’s best interests.
The SIJ status comes with several provisions that waive roadblocks that would otherwise come in obtaining a green card and becoming a lawful permanent resident. Obtaining the SIJ status allows an immigrant to gain authorization to work and creates a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
Obtaining SIJ Status
There are two main steps to obtaining SIJ Status. First, an immigrant must prove their eligibility for SIJ Status in Family Court. Once this is obtained, they must fill out the USCIS Form I-360, Petition for Special Immigrant. A petitioner for SIJ Status can also choose to concurrently fill out the USCIS Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to apply for a green card.
USCIS Updates to SIJ Status
On March 7, 2022, the USCIS released new SIJ status policy updates. For instance, it included updates on the age-out provision that protects petitioners who turn 21 during the process of their application. They also clarify that while USCIS is deciding for an SIJ case, the petitioner cannot be required to contact their parents/guardians. USCIS has also increased consideration for deferred action and employment authorization for SIJs who cannot immediately apply for a visa or obtain lawful permanent resident status.
The SIJ process and classification are meant to allow for provisions to undocumented immigrants who are mistreated, abused, or neglected by their parents. This classification allows them to access provisions for lawful permanent residency and work authorization. By completing the necessary steps and filling out the required USCIS forms, eligible undocumented immigrants will be able to access these waivers to roadblocks that would otherwise hinder the process of ultimately obtaining U.S. citizenship.
We can help
Migration Resource Center views each case as unique; therefore, it is essential to consult with legal counsel before starting your case as some other options may be available. Of course, you may always contact us to begin your consultation. Please call us at (646) 609-8805 or use the link to schedule a free immigration consultation.
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