If you are in the United States and need the protection of a juvenile court because you have been abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both parents, you may be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status. If SIJ status is granted, you may qualify for lawful permanent residency or “green card” status.
In order to qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile status, you must be unmarried and under age 21. In addition, you must have a valid juvenile court order issued by a state court in the United States which finds that: 1) you are dependent on the court, or in the custody of a state agency or department or an individual or entity appointed by the court; 2) you cannot be reunified with one or both of your parents because of ANY of the following: abuse, abandonment, neglect or a similar basis under state law; and 3) it is not in your best interests to return to the country of nationality or last habitual residence of you or your parents.
It is important to note that in some states, juvenile courts may only be able to issue a juvenile court order if you are under 18 years of age, so timing is of the essence. In some places, it can take months for the required hearing to take place in the juvenile court, so it is extremely important for children who may qualify for SIJ status to be identified quickly and to be connected with a legal representative who is experienced in the SIJ process both before the local juvenile court and with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This is because after the required court order is obtained from the juvenile court, and application for SIJ status must be prepared and filed with USCIS, who makes the final decision as to whether or not the child may receive the status. A child whose petition for SIJ status is granted can then apply to adjust their status to permanent resident or “green card” status, and remain in the U.S. permanently.
Children who qualify for SIJ status are often vulnerable and unaware of the requirements needed in order to apply. The immigration attorneys at Dworken & Bernstein are uniquely well-versed in the two-step process of first obtaining the requisite juvenile court order for SIJ applicants and then filing the petition with USCIS. Our attorneys are committed to working quickly and diligently to assist those children who qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile status.