Special Immigrant Juveniles
Children and young adults under 21 years of age from other countries who are in the United States and need the protection of a juvenile court due to abandonment, neglect, or abuse may be eligible for a Special Immigrant Juvenile (“SIJ”) classification. Children who are SIJs may qualify for a green card based on their SIJ status.
Form I-360 is used to apply for SIJ status. In addition, the intending immigrant will also need to file a Form I-485 to adjust status (i.e. get his or her green card), either simultaneously with Form I-360 or later, depending on whether a visa is immediately available. He or she may also want to file a Form I-765, to obtain work authorization.
To qualify as an SIJ, a young person needs to meet all of the following requirements:
- Be under 21 years of age at the time the SIJ petition is filed;
- Be living in the United States, both at the time the SIJ petition is filed and when a decision is made on the petition;
- Be unmarried—that means that either the intending immigrant was never married, or he or she was married but the marriage was terminated through divorce, annulment, or death;
- Have a valid juvenile court order that finds that
- He or she is “dependent on the court, or in the custody of a state agency or department or an individual or entity appointed by the court” OR he or she has been adopted or placed in permanent guardianship OR he or she aged out of the court’s jurisdiction (for example, in state courts that can only issue a juvenile order for children under 18); AND
- He or she cannot be reunified with one or both of his or her parents due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a similar issue; AND
- It is not in his or her best interests to return to the country of nationality or last habitual residence of him or her or his or her parents;
- Be eligible for USCIS consent—this means that he or she sought help from the juvenile court in order to obtain help for one of the above-listed reasons, and not primarily to obtain an immigration benefit like a green card; and
- If he or she is in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the juvenile court order changes his or her custody or placement, written consent from Health and Human Services/Office of Refugee Resettlement is required.
It is important to note that throughout this process, USCIS will never require a prospective SIJ to contact the family members who abused, neglected, or abandoned him or her.