Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is an important legal avenue for vulnerable immigrant youth. In this article, we present detailed information on the subject so that you can make an informed decision.
Do you feel overwhelmed by such a complex process? Don’t worry, at Jaskot Law, we know how to give you peace of mind, and we will help you review your immigrant juvenile status to help you achieve your goals in the United States.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
The SIJS visa is a program that provides an opportunity for juvenile immigrants under the age of 21 who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents or guardians to obtain a visa and, ultimately, permanent residency in the country.
The program was created to protect vulnerable children, and has a long process. In addition, while it offers a range of benefits, it also has certain eligibility and inadmissibility requirements, so you should know what documentation you need, and what to do after your application is approved or denied. If you have any doubts, our team can advise you.
Who do we call SIJS special juvenile immigrant?
A special immigrant is one who, upon meeting certain requirements, can obtain a Green Card (permanent residency). In this case, the juvenile status for immigrants applies to young people under 21 years of age.
Eligibility requirements for juvenile status in the U.S.
To qualify for and obtain immigrant juvenile status, the applicant must:
- Be under 21 years of age.
- Not being married: if you were married, the marriage must have ended, either by annulment, death, or divorce.
- Currently live in the United States.
- Have written consent: it will be provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
- Be eligible for USCIS consent: must have sought a juvenile court order to obtain relief from abuse, abandonment, or neglect and not to obtain an immigration benefit.
- Have a valid juvenile court order.
Are there differences between the juvenile status for immigrants and other visas?
The answer is yes, all visas are different. They can differ, among others, based on the following aspects:
|Aspect||SIJS Juvenile Visa||Other visas for the U.S.|
|Eligibility||Young victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment by parents/guardians.||Various criteria: family visas (marriage, children), work visas (H-1B, L-1), study visas (F-1, J-1), tourist visas (B-2), etc.|
|Purpose||Obtaining permanent residency in the U.S.||Varied: family reunification, temporary work, studies, tourism, etc.|
|Legal Process||Requires court approval of the application.||Application before USCIS or U.S. Embassy, with interview and specific procedures for each visa.|
Juvenile status application process for immigrants
The application process for juvenile status for immigrants is divided into two major stages, each with its respective steps. These are as follows:
|Stage 1||Step 1 – Child Eligibility: The first step is to determine if the child meets the eligibility requirements listed above.|
Step 2 – Obtain a court order: The child must obtain a court order stating that he or she is a dependent of the juvenile court, and that it is not in his or her best interest to return to his or her home country. This order is issued by a state court in the United States, and is necessary to continue with the process.
Step 3 – Family Reunification: It must be demonstrated that there is a reasonable possibility of reunification with at least one parent. If both parents are deceased or have lost custodial rights, the child must show that reunification is not feasible.
|Stage 2||Step 1 – I-360 Petition: Once the child has a court order and has demonstrated family reunification, the child must file the Special Immigrant Petition (Form I-360) with the USCIS.|
Step 2 – Interview with USCIS: After review of the Form I-360, the minor and, in some cases, the minor’s parents or legal guardians, will be summoned for a interview with an immigration officer.The details of the request will be reviewed and questions will be asked to verify the veracity of the information provided.
Step 3 – Approval of the I-360 Petition: If the interview and all documentation submitted are satisfactory, USCIS will approve the special immigrant classification. In addition, they could automatically access the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Step 4 – Adjustment of status or immigrant visa application process: Once the I-360 petition is approved, the minor may apply for adjustment of status to obtain the Green Card (within the U.S.) or must follow the immigrant visa application process through the U.S. Department of State (outside the U.S.).
Step 5 – Obtaining Permanent Resident Status: Once the previous step is completed, the child will obtain permanent resident status in the United States.
The process of applying for this remedy may vary depending on the individual case, and it is recommended that legal advice be obtained so that none of the steps are overlooked.
Benefits for Juvenile Status for Immigrants (SIJS)
The Juvenile Status for Immigrants provides a number of significant benefits to those who obtain permanent residency in the country. Some of them are as follows:
- Work and Study: SIJS beneficiaries may work and study legally in the United States without restrictions.
- Family reunification: Once they obtain permanent residency, beneficiaries may apply for reunification with their immediate family members in the United States.
- Educational opportunities: Beneficiaries can access educational opportunities, scholarships, and financial assistance programs to continue their education in the United States.
- Security and stability: Juvenile status provides security and stability to beneficiaries by offering them a legal pathway to remain in the United States and build a promising future.
Why can my application for immigrant juvenile status be denied?
The reasons for rejection or inadmissibility of the SIJS juvenile visa may vary, but some of the most common are as follows:
- Non-compliance with requirements: Not meeting eligibility requirements in terms of age, marital status, or place of residence at the time of application, for example.
- Incomplete or incorrect documentation: Failure to submit, among others, evidence of your status, relevant forms or court order.
- Lack of evidence of genuine intent: Not being able to demonstrate that the child has no interest in returning to his or her country of origin, or that he or she is in a current situation of vulnerability.
- Criminal record: Failure to disclose the child’s behavioral history, and to file the relevant remedy to reverse the situation if the child has a criminal record influences the decision.
What documentation can or should I submit with my application?
The applicant must submit a variety of documents to support eligibility and allegations of abuse or neglect. Some of the essential documents include the following:
- Proof of relationship: Documents showing relationship to parents or guardians, such as birth certificates or marriage certificates.
- Evidence of abuse or neglect: Police reports, witness affidavits, photographs, or any other evidence to support the allegations.
- Court Determination: The document issued by the family court indicating that the child is eligible for SIJS.
- USCIS Forms and Applications: Forms and applications required by USCIS for the application process must be completed and submitted.
Can I obtain juvenile status for immigrants if I have a criminal record?
Possessing of a criminal record also influences the rejection or inadmissibility of an application for the benefit of the juvenile visa. Therefore, applicants must disclose their conduct history when requested to do so, either on forms or in interviews.
However, they have the possibility to file an application to an immigration waiver. With this remedy, applicants have the opportunity to reverse their status and become admissible to the country.
My SIJS juvenile visa application was approved, now what’s next?
Upon approval of the application for juvenile status for immigrants, the applicant’s attorney may file, if not already filed with the juvenile visa application, a Form I-485 to apply for permanent residence.
After obtaining permanent residency, you can do the following:
- Work legally in the country.
- Apply for an unrestricted Social Security card.
- Apply for a driver’s license.
- Travel abroad, if necessary, for a period of less than one year.
My application for juvenile status for immigrants was denied, can I appeal?
On the other hand, the USCIS may deny the application. In such a case, it shall notify the reasons by means of a written decision, which the applicant may not appeal.
However, you may use the Form I-290B to file a motion to reopen, reconsider, or renew the application in the immigration court. Instructions for filing will be included in the denial notice.
In summary, Juvenile Status for Immigrants (SIJS) is a valuable opportunity for juvenile immigrants in a situation of vulnerability. While it has a strict and lengthy process, the program offers a legal pathway to a visa and permanent residency, extensive benefits, and protection to those who have suffered abuse or neglect.
Having the advice of an experienced immigration attorney is critical to ensure that the application process is successful, and all requirements are met. At Jaskot Law, we have the necessary resources to achieve it.