Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

There are many foreign children in Los Angeles who are the victims of abuse, neglect or are abandoned. Children in these situations often would be better off being taken in by the State of California rather than letting the child continue to be abused or neglected, or forcing the child to make it on their own after being abandoned. The streets of L.A. are no place for a child. Foreign children who are the victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment, can seek Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The SIJ program allows these children to seek a green card in certain circumstances, and to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. Later, once the child has a green card, the child can seek to become a U.S. citizen.

What Children Are Eligible for SIJ Status?

The SIJ status is meant as a humanitarian effort to help children who are in desperate need, regardless of whether the children are undocumented. Through the SIJ program, children can obtain lawful immigration status. Foreign children who are eligible SIJ Status include:

  • Children who are physically present in the United States and are under the age of 21 and are not married at the time of filing.
  • Children who have obtained a qualifying juvenile court order that indicates a finding that the child was the victim of abuse, neglect or abandonment and that reunification with the child’s parents or parent is not viable due to the abuse, neglect or abandonment, and that it is not in the best interest of the child to return to their country of birth/home country.

Children must satisfy these two criteria before they are able to apply for SIJ status. There are many scenarios that could render a foreign child in Los Angeles eligible for the SIJ program. For instance, children who have been picked up by the state and are in state or federal custody are likely eligible for SIJ status, as are children who are participating in foster care.

There are many benefits to seeking SIJ status. For starters, SIJ status for the child is a gateway to obtaining lawful permanent residency in the United States. The child can live, work and can seek a green card and U.S. citizenship in due time with SIJ status. But there are also inherent risks to applying for SIJ status. Children who are undocumented and are living in the United States are here illegally, which means they could be subject to removal proceedings (i.e., deportation out of the country) if they do not obtain SIJ status. This is a risk that the child must take in order to apply for SIJ status.

While there are risks associated with applying for SIJ status, there are also advantages, and a child who is considering applying for SIJ status needs to carefully consider these factors when making a decision about SIJ status. Children who want to seek SIJ status must apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by completing an I-360 petition and submitting the appropriate juvenile court order as well. Then the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will determine whether to grant SIJ status or not.

Getting A Green Card Based on SIJ Status

Simply getting SIJ status does not automatically mean that the child gets a green card – a green card must be separately applied for. But once the child does obtain a green card (e.g., lawful permanent residency) through the SIJ program, there are still certain further restrictions. For instance, these children are not ever able to petition for their natural parents or adoptive parents to get a green card, nor are these children currently able to petition for their siblings to get a green card. Children who obtain a green card through the SIJ program may petition for a green card for their siblings once they have obtained U.S. citizenship.

The biggest risk that undocumented foreign children face when applying for SIJ status is that they could be deported. Applying for SIJ status effectively highlights the fact that the child is in the United States illegally, so it is important to be sure that the child is likely going to get SIJ status before applying. The Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C. can help you with your case. Please feel free to contact our Los Angeles lawyers if you would like to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation. Our skilled Southern California immigration attorneys can begin working on your behalf immediately.