Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS): Work Permit & SL6 Green Card

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a special classification for certain undocumented minors in the United States who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents. It allows these young people to apply for a green card and eventually become lawful permanent residents. 


Understanding how a work permit and the SL6 Green Card relate to SIJS can be crucial for those who qualify. This is what we explore in this detailed Special Immigrant Juvenile Status requirements article including an introduction to the process, how to apply, and how work authorization affects your journey.


After reading this article, you should have a clear understanding of the process. You should also be able to see if it is appropriate for your immigration journey and how to seek legal advice for further guidance.



Where Does SIJS Come From and What is Its Legal Framework?


To understand SIJS, it’s important to know where it comes from and the laws that govern it. Let’s break it down, including its definition, legal framework, and eligibility criteria.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Visa – A Definition


The SIJS visa is a way for undocumented minors who have faced difficult circumstances at home to obtain legal status in the U.S. It offers a path to a green card, which means the right to live and work in the country permanently.


Unlike asylum status in the US, Special Juvenile Immigrant Status allows you to apply for a Green Card (Legal Permanent Resident Status) immediately. Asylum seekers must wait a minimum of one year after their status is approved before applying for LPR.

Legal Framework and Beginnings of SIJS


Special Immigrant Juvenile Status was created by the Immigration Act of 1990. This act made amendments to the original Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which didn’t have many provisions for the specific protection of minors.


It was designed to protect vulnerable children who are already in the United States and have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents.

Eligibility Criteria for SIJS


To qualify for SIJS, you must be under 21, unmarried, and already in the U.S. A juvenile court must declare that you cannot be reunited with one or both of your parents because of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar reason. 


The court must also determine that it’s not in your best interest to return to your home country. The Special Immigrant Juvenile Status age limit is important to understand. The blanket age limit is 21, but this differs by state. You can read our guide on SIJS age-out-by-state policy for full details.


However, to start, you need to know that the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status age limit varies from 18 to 21, and some states have additional rules. Some examples include:


  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status California: 21.
  • SIJS Delaware: 18.
  • SIJS Hawaii: 21, but you must have faced abuse, abandonment, or neglect before turning 18.



How Does the SIJS Application Process Work?

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Green Card

Applying for SIJS involves several steps, each crucial for obtaining this special status. Here’s how you can navigate through the process.

Step 1 – Understanding Your Eligibility


First, ensure you meet all the eligibility requirements. You need to be under 21, unmarried and have a juvenile court order that supports your case. This includes showing that you have suffered abuse, abandonment, or neglect at the hands of one or both of your parents. 

Step 2 – Juvenile State Court Proceedings


Next, you must go through juvenile court proceedings. The court needs to issue orders regarding your status, confirming that you cannot reunite with your parents and that returning to your home country isn’t in your best interest.


These are known as the SIJS findings and they are imperative to continue with your application. Your immigration attorney can help obtain the order. It must also be attached with Form I-360 which is the next step of the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status process.

Step 3 – Filing Form I-360


After getting the necessary court orders, you file Form I-360 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form is the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.


This form is complicated, and it requires multiple fields to be completed. This is another area where an SIJS lawyer can help. They can’t complete the form for you, but they can explain the various sections, make sure you understand them, and ensure you provide the right evidence.


There is also a filing fee for Form I-360 which is typically $525. However, as an SIJS applicant, it is possible to apply for a filing fee waiver, which means you can file the form for free.

Step 4 – Filing Form I-485 (For Your Green Card)


Once your I-360 is approved, you can file Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This is the step that allows you to apply for your green card.


It is possible to file Form I-485 at the same time as Form I-360. If you can do this, we advise it due to the length of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status processing time. Anything you can do to speed up the process can help greatly.


The USCIS has an application backlog which means the average Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Green Card processing time is around 260 days. In some instances, there may not be any Green Card slots available either which can cause further complications.

How Does Work Authorization Work During the SIJS Process?


Getting work authorization can be a critical need for SIJS applicants. This is because you can’t simply start working until you have legal permanent resident status. Here’s how it works.

Explanation of Work Permit Eligibility


You can apply for a work permit once you have filed your Form I-485. This allows you to work legally in the U.S. while your green card application is being processed.


This is known as an Employment Authorization Document. It’s important to understand that some types of employment are not covered by the EAD including professions like doctors and psychiatrists.

How to Apply for a Work Permit With SIJS


To apply for a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status work permit, you need to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. You can submit this form along with your I-485 or after you’ve filed it. With your Form I-765, you must include the following documents and information:


  • Copy of your passport.
  • Two passport-style photos.
  • Your I-94 travel record.
  • Copies of any other applicable work permits.


Form I-765 has six different parts and some of it may appear confusing which is why an experienced immigration lawyer can be invaluable. They can talk you through the different sections of the form and make sure you complete it properly.


If you do not apply for an employment authorization document, then you could jeopardize your entire SIJS and Green Card application. Even if you are undertaking informal or short-term work, an EAD is still required, with no exceptions.


What is the SL6 Green Card?


The SL6 Green Card is a special category of green cards for SIJS recipients. Let’s look at what it means and its benefits.

A Brief Definition and History of the SL6 Green Card


The SL6 Green Card is issued to SIJS recipients, allowing them to live and work permanently in the U.S. This category was created to ensure that those who qualify for SIJS can smoothly transition to permanent residency.


So, in simple terms, it’s just your Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Green Card. This is different from the standard Green Card given to asylum seekers who apply for LPR and it does have some differences. The major difference which we discuss in a later section, is the inability to petition for a family member’s asylum with an SL6 Green Card.

What are the Benefits of the SL6 Green Card?


With an SL6 Green Card, you gain permanent residency in the U.S. This means you can work, study, and live in the country indefinitely. An SL6 Green Card also allows you to travel abroad and gain reentry into the States.


It also puts you on a path to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship. You can apply for U.S. citizenship via the Naturalization process 5 years after obtaining your LPR status (providing you meet the eligibility criteria).


What Considerations Should You Make for SIJS?

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Work Permit

There are important considerations to keep in mind when applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Being aware of these can help you navigate the process better. It also helps you understand the limitations and how the process could affect your family and future.

Travel Restrictions


While your SIJS application is pending, you generally cannot travel outside the U.S. If you do, it could jeopardize your application. 


The only way you can travel is if you have permission and a reentry permit. Without these things, you could be barred from reentry into the U.S. While going through the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status adjustment of status we advise against foreign travel – this removes any potential issues.

Inability to Petition for Family Members


SIJS recipients cannot petition for their parents to come to the U.S. This is an important limitation to understand. If you have family members who want to join you in the States, they have to do so via other means such as applying for asylum.


This differs from someone who has obtained LPR status via asylum, as they can petition for certain family members. Full U.S. citizens can also petition for family members such as spouses and siblings.

Keeping Your Address Maintained with the USCIS


You must keep your address up to date with USCIS. This ensures you receive all important correspondence related to your application. We advise registering an account with the USCIS during your application. This gives you several features, such as tracking your case progress and being able to quickly change your address online.

Maintaining Full Transparency With Your Attorney


Always be honest and transparent with your attorney. This helps them provide the best advice and support for your case. If you withhold any information from them, they may not be able to give you full support. 


Also, the lawyer may make incorrect decisions or advice because of the info you omitted. Professional immigration attorneys are a trusted source. They are impartial and pass no judgment on individuals applying for asylum or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status – you can trust them with anything.


What Legal Assistance and Resources Can You Benefit From?


Having legal assistance can make a big difference in your SIJS application. Here’s how to make the most of these resources.

Consulting With an Experienced SIJS Lawyer


Consulting with a lawyer who has experience with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases is essential. They understand the nuances of the law and can guide you through the process.


This differs from a standard lawyer, who, while still being experienced, may lack in-depth knowledge of specific immigration processes like SIJS.

What a Lawyer Can Do During Your Application


A lawyer can help gather necessary documentation, represent you in court, and ensure that your application is correctly filled out and filed. They are with you at each stage of the process and can offer the following services:


  • Discuss your eligibility and make sure you have a clear case for SIJS.
  • Determine the best course of action and help you build a credible immigration plan.
  • Guide you through the juvenile court process, including obtaining SIJ findings.
  • Assistance completing Form I-360 and I-485.
  • Help complete any additional requests from the USCIS.
  • Legal representation during any interviews or hearings if necessary.

How to Choose a Suitable Immigration Lawyer


Choose a lawyer with a good track record in SIJS cases. Look for someone who communicates clearly and makes you feel comfortable. You should speak to their previous clients if possible to learn what their experience was like and if the legal representative was reliable and thorough.

SIJS Offers Vital Protection For Vulnerable Minors Entering the US


Special Immigrant Juvenile Status provides a crucial lifeline for young people who have faced hardship. Understanding how to navigate the application process, work authorization, and the benefits of the SL6 Green Card is essential. 


Legal guidance can greatly assist in making this journey smoother and more successful. If you have any questions or want to start your SIJS journey, please don’t hesitate to contact us – we are at your service.


Can I work if I have SIJS?


Yes, you can apply for a work permit after filing your Form I-485. However, if you have been granted SIJS but no Green Cards are currently available because of the Visa backlog, you would need to apply for deferred action before applying for an EAD.

Can I travel with SIJS?


Traveling outside the U.S. while your application is pending is generally not advised, as it can affect your SIJS status. However, once you have your status approved and have your SL6 Green Card, you can travel freely with the proper authorization and reentry documents.

Can I bring family members to the U.S. under SIJS?


No, SIJS does not allow you to petition for your parents or other family members. They would need to apply for asylum via other means, such as Form I-589. This is one of the drawbacks of SIJS compared to asylum, as asylum seekers with LPR status can petition for certain family members.

What is the SL6 Green Card?


The SL6 Green Card is a special category of green cards issued to SIJS recipients, granting them permanent residency in the U.S. It essentially operates the same as a standard Green Card issued for asylum seekers. One of the key differences is the inability to petition for family members to join you though.


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