What is SIJS Immigration?

Sijs Immigration

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a unique form of immigration relief for certain undocumented minors in the United States. 


It allows eligible children to apply for lawful permanent residency, often referred to as a Green Card. SIJS is crucial for undocumented minors who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both parents, as it provides a pathway to a safer and more secure future. 


This blog aims to explain SIJS requirements, who is eligible, the pros and cons, how it compares to asylum, the application process, and key resources for applicants.


What are the Eligibility Criteria for SIJS?


To qualify for I-360 SIJS, you must meet specific criteria. These criteria ensure that only those who truly need this form of protection and support can apply. They include age requirements, marital status, dependency requirements, and a classification of parental reunification.

Age Requirements


You must be under 21 years old at the time of filing your SIJS application. This age limit is set to ensure the program helps minors who are still dependent on others for care and protection.


It’s important to note that this is specifically for the petition i.e. the juvenile court findings. This requirement varies from state to state too. SIJS are out by state policies differ and range from 18 to 21. You can check this handy Special Immigration Juvenile Status age out database for more information.


Make sure you look at more than just the age, though, as some states have additional requirements. For example, to obtain an SIJS visa in Maryland, you must obtain the court order before 21, but the abuse, abandonment, or neglect must have occurred before you were 18.

Marital Status


You must be unmarried. This requirement is in place because an SIJS Green Card is designed to help vulnerable children who do not have the protection or support of a spouse.

Dependency Requirement


You must be declared dependent on a juvenile court or placed under the custody of a state agency, guardian, or individual appointed by the court. This shows that you need help and protection from the state.


Obtaining the court order and findings can be tricky and this is why many people seek assistance from an immigration lawyer. An attorney can explain the SIJS meaning, and provide legal representation during the Juvenile court process.

Parental Reunification Viability


The court must determine that reunification with one or both of your parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under state law. This ensures that SIJS adjustment of status benefits those who cannot return to their parents safely.


The tricky part here is providing evidence and documents to show that you have suffered abuse, abandonment, or neglect. This could be things like SMS messages, letters, doctor examinations, psychiatrist examinations, and testimonials from witnesses.

Best Interest Determination


The court must find that it is not in your best interest to return to your home country or your parent’s country of residence. This step is crucial to protect you from returning to a potentially harmful environment.


For example, perhaps if you were sent back to your home country, you would have nowhere to live or be placed immediately back in harm’s way. 


What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of SIJS?

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

While SIJS guardianship offers significant benefits for undocumented minors, it also comes with some limitations. Understanding both sides can help you make informed decisions. You can see if special juvenile immigrant status is right for you and what you potentially have to face during the process.


No Need for Legal Entry into the U.S.


You do not need to have entered the United States legally for SIJS eligibility, which makes it accessible to a broader range of applicants. It also means that you can start the SIJS process first and then plan your move to the U.S. once it is underway.

Waiver for Most Grounds of Inadmissibility


SIJS immigration provides waivers for many grounds of inadmissibility that would otherwise prevent someone from becoming a lawful permanent resident. Examples of these grounds of inadmissibility that do not apply include:


  • Stowaways: If you boarded a vessel without the owner or person in command’s consent.
  • Fraud or misrepresentation: if you used a forged passport, Green Card, or someone else’s birth certificate.

Eligibility for Green Card Application Fee Waiver


Applicants can often have their Green Card application fees waived, reducing financial barriers. This is important as the typical SIJS immigration filing fee for Form I-360 is $515.00 as per the current USCIS fee schedule.

No Need for Consular Processing for Illegal Entrants


Those who entered the U.S. illegally do not need to leave the country to apply for a Green Card, avoiding the risk and expense of consular processing. This means you have extra flexibility when considering SIJS immigration.

High Approval Rates


SIJS petitions have high approval rates, making them a reliable option for eligible minors seeking legal status. The current SIJS approval rate is around 95%, and over the last 5+ years, this figure has remained roughly the same.


We expect the SIJS approval rate 2024 to be similar too. This means that providing you complete your SIJS training and application, and reply to any USCIS requests promptly, the process should be straightforward from an approval standpoint.



Inability to Petition for Parents’ Green Cards


You cannot petition for your parents to get Green Cards, which limits family reunification options. The only people who can petition for family members’ Green Cards are U.S. Citizens or asylum seekers who have Legal Permanent Residency status, which is the next step after your SIJS USCIS approval.

Legal Implications of Being Treated as an Orphan


SIJS immigration requires you to be treated as if you are an orphan, which can have emotional and legal implications. Unfortunately, there are still negative connotations that come with orphancy (wrongly so!), so this could add a layer of complexity to your SIJS immigration process.

Slower USCIS Processing Times


The SIJS process can be slow, with lengthy USCIS processing times that delay obtaining lawful permanent residency.


When looking at what is SIJS, you must understand the current USCIS backlog. Over time, the number of applicants started to rapidly increase. Over the last 5+ years, it has got to a point where the USCIS cannot keep up with the applications.


As a result, waiting times for approval can be lengthy. It’s estimated that the current average waiting time is around 260+ days with many applications taking longer than this.

Complicated Age-Out by State Process


The age-out process varies by state, which can complicate and delay applications for minors approaching the age limit. We provided a resource earlier with a database on the SIJS age out by state policy for all U.S. states. Make sure you understand this and the nuances of SIJS immigration for the state you live in.


How Does SIJS Immigration Compare to Asylum?

Sijs Approval Rate 2024

SIJS and asylum are both forms of immigration relief for those in need of protection, but they have different requirements and benefits. Understanding these similarities and differences can help applicants choose the best option for their situation.



Both SIJS and asylum provide pathways to lawful permanent residency for those who meet specific criteria and are in need of protection. They both aim to help individuals who cannot return to their home countries due to danger or hardship.



SIJS is specifically for minors who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents, while asylum is for individuals facing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Additionally, SIJS does not require proof of persecution, and asylum does not have an age limit.

What is the SIJS Application Process?


When looking at what is special immigrant juvenile status, understanding the application process is vital. The SIJS application process involves two main stages: juvenile court proceedings and the USCIS application. Each stage has specific steps and requirements.

Stage One – Juvenile Court Proceedings


The first step is to obtain a court order from a juvenile court declaring that the minor is dependent on the court or in the custody of a state agency or appointed guardian. The court must also determine that reunification with one or both parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and that it is not in the child’s best interest to return to their home country.

Stage Two – USCIS Application


Once the court order is obtained, the minor can file a petition for SIJS with USCIS using Form I-360. If USCIS approves the petition, the minor can then apply for a Green Card.

Are there any Key Resources for SIJS Applicants?


Several resources are available to help special immigrant juvenile status one parent or two parent applicants understand the process and gather the necessary documentation. These resources include manuals, case law, specific case examples, and official forms.

Safe Passage SIJS Manual


This manual provides comprehensive guidance on the SIJS application process, including detailed instructions and helpful tips for applicants and their guardians. It was created by the Safe Passage Project which is an organization dedicated to helping immigrants and providing free legal advice and resources.

SIJS Case Law


Reviewing relevant case law can help applicants understand how courts have ruled in previous SIJS cases, providing valuable insights into what to expect. Your asylum lawyer can also help keep you up to date with new developments in immigration law that could affect your application.


Additional SIJS Materials


Various organizations and legal aid services offer additional materials and resources to assist SIJS applicants, including templates and checklists.

Advisory Council on Immigration Issues in Family Court Memo (January 2017)


This memo provides important guidelines and recommendations for family court judges handling SIJS cases, helping ensure consistency and fairness in the process.

USCIS Form I-360


This form is the official petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and is essential for completing the SIJS application process.


Uscis Form I-360

Arm Yourself With Knowledge and Start Your SIJS Journey


SIJS immigration offers a vital pathway to legal residency for undocumented minors who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned. 


Understanding the eligibility criteria, advantages, disadvantages, and application process is crucial for those considering this option. With the right resources and support, it can provide a safer, more secure future for vulnerable children.


We hope you have found this guide useful and have a clearer idea of the process and its challenges. If you need more advice or want legal assistance, please contact us – we want everyone to have a fair chance at realizing their American dream.


How does a minor prove that reunification with a parent is not viable?


A minor can prove this through evidence presented in juvenile court, such as police reports, court records, and testimonies from social workers or other professionals.

Can a minor still apply for SIJS if they have entered the U.S. illegally?


Yes, minors who entered the U.S. illegally can still apply for SIJS. Legal entry is not a requirement for eligibility.

What is the role of the Family or Surrogate’s Court in the SIJS process?


The Family or Surrogate’s Court determines if the minor meets the dependency requirements and if reunification with parents is not viable and makes a best interest determination.

How long does the SIJS process typically take?


The SIJS process can vary, but it typically takes several months to over a year, depending on court schedules and USCIS processing times.

Can a minor apply for SIJS if they are in foster care?


Yes, minors in foster care are eligible to apply for SIJS as long as they meet the other eligibility criteria.

What happens after a minor receives SIJS?


After receiving SIJS, the minor can apply for a Green Card and eventually for U.S. citizenship, provided they meet all the requirements.

Does the Guardian have to have legal status within the United States?


No, the guardian does not need to have legal status in the United States for the minor to be eligible for SIJS.

Does the Guardian have to live with the child?


No, the guardian does not necessarily have to live with the child, but they must be responsible for the child’s welfare and care as determined by the court.

Does a Guardian have to be related to the child?


No, a guardian does not have to be a relative. They can be any adult appointed by the court who is responsible for the child’s care.

How detailed must my offer of proof be in my motion for SIJS?


The offer of proof must be detailed enough to convince the court of the child’s eligibility, including evidence of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and why returning to their home country is not in their best interest.

What are some examples of proof that it is not in the child’s best interests to return to his/her country of origin?


Examples include evidence of unsafe living conditions, lack of family support, or reports from social workers or other professionals about the child’s wellbeing.

Can a biological/natural parent petition for Guardianship?


In some cases, a biological parent may petition for guardianship if the other parent is unfit or if it is in the best interest of the child. However, this could affect the SIJS eligibility if it suggests reunification is viable.

Does the child need to be present in court?


Yes, the child typically needs to be present in court for the juvenile court proceedings, as their testimony and presence can be crucial for the case.


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