What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

If you are in the United States and need the protection of a juvenile court because you have been abused, abandoned or neglected by a parent, you may be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) classification. If SIJ classification is granted, you may qualify for lawful permanent residency (also known as getting a Green Card). In order to be eligible for SIJ classification, you must:

Photo by Katie Moum

  1. Be under 21 years of age at the time you file the SIJ petition with USCIS;
  2. Be unmarried;
  3. 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;
    3. AND It is not in your best interests to return to the country of nationality or last habitual residence of you or your parents.

Obtaining SIJS is a two-step process. First, you must obtain an order from a state juvenile court before your 18th birthday which finds that you have been abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both of your parents and, for that reason, it is not in your best interest to return to your home country. Second, you must submit this order to USCIS, along with an I-360 petition for SIJS, before your 21st birthday. At that point, USCIS will determine whether to grant or deny your petition. If granted, you will be eligible to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident (green card holder).

More often than not, children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected by their parents reside in the United States under the care and custody of another adult, who may not necessarily be their legal guardian. In this case, the Michigan probate courts can act as “juvenile courts” for the purpose of SIJS. Where a guardianship case relates to a minor child, the court usually makes findings related to the welfare of the child and the status of the child’s relationship with his or her parents and the proposed guardian. MCL 700.5204. As such, a probate court is giving the guardian not only custody of the child under until they turn 18, but also giving the guardian control over the education, activities, property, and all other matters related to the care of the child. Id. Therefore, decisions made by a probate court relating to guardianship of a minor fit the description of a juvenile court for SIJ purposes.

If you are under the age of 18 and are residing in the United States without one or both of your parents due to abuse, abandonment or neglect, call us to explore the possibility of obtaining this special benefit designed specifically for minor children.

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