What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)?
Asylum in the US is a multi-faceted process that has many branches, including for both adults and children seeking sanctuary. For children specifically, there is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which is a type of asylum application that aims to protect the vulnerable. In the below article, we explain the SIJS meaning, SIJS requirements, and how this process works.
Background of SIJS
Oftentimes juveniles travel to the US to seek asylum or have traveled with friends and family, get separated, or experience issues such as abuse and abandonment. In these instances, protection is needed as the juvenile is vulnerable in a foreign country, and this is where SIJS immigration comes into play.
Origin and Legal Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is a humanitarian immigration relief available to certain undocumented immigrant children in the United States.
It was established by Congress in the Immigration Act of 1990 as a means to protect vulnerable immigrant children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status was further expanded in 2008 with the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), reflecting the growing recognition of the unique challenges faced by immigrant minors.
Purpose of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
The primary purpose of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is to provide a pathway to lawful permanent residency for immigrant children who have been subjected to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and cannot be reunified with one or both parents due to such circumstances.
It aims to safeguard the welfare and best interests of these vulnerable children by granting them legal protection and stability in the United States. An asylum lawyer can help with the application and guide them through the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status process.
Eligibility Criteria for SIJS in the US
To be eligible for SIJS, an immigrant child must meet several criteria. Firstly, they must be under the age of 21 at the time of filing the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petition and not married. Additionally, the child must have a valid juvenile court order issued by a state court in the United States, declaring them dependent on the court or placing them under the custody of a state agency or individual appointed by the court.
Furthermore, the juvenile court must find that it is not in the child’s best interest to be reunited with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. To reiterate, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status requirements include:
- Under the age of 21.
- Not married.
- Located in the US as an undocumented juvenile.
- Either separated from or hurt by both or one of your parents.
SIJS Requirements and the Process
The process of obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status involves several steps. First, the immigrant child must seek a juvenile court order from the state court in the jurisdiction where they reside. This often requires the assistance of legal counsel to navigate the complexities of the legal system, and this is where the services of an asylum attorney are invaluable.
Once the court order is obtained, the child can then file a petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the petition is approved, the child can apply for lawful permanent residency, commonly known as a green card. We have detailed the above steps in greater detail below:
Obtain a Juvenile Court Order
First, a special immigrant juvenile status applicant must obtain a juvenile court order that declares they are a dependant relating to their dependency, parental reunification, and best interests. Evidence and supporting documentation should be provided to obtain this court order.
I.e., you must be able to show that reunification with your parents is no longer possible due to neglect, abandonment, or abuse, and it is not within your best interests to return to your home country or your place of last habitual residence.
File a Petition (Form I-360)
With the court order obtained, SIJS requirements state that you must complete Form I-360 as part of your asylum application which is the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. Information on this form you must provide includes (but is not limited to):
- Personal information.
- Information about your parents.
- Clarification about your juvenile court order.
The form essentially contains your details, such as name, address, and D.O.B, together with reasons and evidence supporting your SIJS application. This form must be filed in person before your 21st birthday to have a chance at being processed!
Provide Additional Evidence and Attend a Biometrics Appointment
With the I-360 form submitted, several things may now happen as part of SIJS requirements, including:
- Have a biometrics appointment to have your fingerprints and photo taken.
- Submit Form I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record).
- Attend a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status interview with an Immigration Services Officer.
- Provide additional evidence to support your case.
This varies from case to case, and eventually, a decision is made – this usually takes around 180 days after your official form-filing date.
Benefits of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
SIJS provides numerous benefits to eligible immigrant children. Firstly, it offers protection from deportation, allowing them to remain in the United States legally via the acquisition of a green card.
Additionally, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status enables children to apply for work authorization, allowing them to pursue educational and employment opportunities.
Moreover, special immigrant juvenile status can lead to lawful permanent residency, providing a sense of security and stability for immigrant children who have endured trauma and adversity. In some instances, it may also be possible to obtain benefits and assistance with things like medical insurance and education in a similar manner after applying for asylum.
Challenges and Limitations of SIJS Immigration
Despite its benefits, the process faces certain challenges and limitations. One major challenge is the complexity of the legal process, which can be daunting for immigrant children and their families, especially those with limited resources and English proficiency.
Additionally, the availability of this form of asylum is subject to strict eligibility criteria, leaving many immigrant children without legal relief. Furthermore, delays in the processing of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions can prolong the uncertainty and instability experienced by immigrant children.
This reinforces the need for an asylum attorney to guide you through the process, help with the completion of the I-360 form, and give you the support needed to successfully navigate SIJS immigration.
SIJS is a Vital Process for the Security of Juvenile Immigrants
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status plays a crucial role in safeguarding the welfare and security of immigrant children in the United States who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected.
By providing a pathway to lawful permanent residency, it offers vulnerable children protection from deportation and access to essential rights and opportunities.
Despite its challenges and limitations, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status remains a vital process for ensuring the safety and well-being of juvenile immigrants in the United States, and an asylum attorney remains an integral cog in the process to guide and support vulnerable children in their quest for sanctuary and safety.