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What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)?

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What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

If you or a loved one are under the age of 21 in the United States and need the protection of a juvenile court, you may be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, or SIJS. According to the Safe Pass Project, “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is an immigration classification available to certain undocumented immigrants under the age of 21 who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both parents.”

In addition to being under 21, the applicant must be unmarried. It’s important to note that if the child is over the age of 18 but still under the 21 threshold, it may be more challenging to obtain SIJS, so the earlier they can begin the process, the better.

The applicant must also have been declared dependent by a juvenile court. If the applicant was placed in the care of a state, private agency, or private person, this may also make them eligible.

Another requirement is that the juvenile courts must make the determination that it’s not viable or in the child’s best interest for the child to return to their parents, whether that’s due to abandonment, abuse, neglect, or other viable reasons according to state law. In some cases, the death of a parent may be considered neglect. The courts that can determine this must have jurisdiction over the child to find the ruling.

Frequently, this process begins during adoption or guardianship proceedings, although a judge can order it at any time if they deem it necessary.

Why is Obtaining a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status So Important?

With the SLJS, the applicant has the opportunity to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR). Applicants who successfully achieve SIJS are no longer barred from legal entry into the U.S., can apply for work authorization, and certain immigration violations may be waived.

Once obtaining work authorization, the applicant can apply for a social security number and a driver’s license.

Challenges With the SIJS Process

Some challenges the applicant may face are that not all juvenile courts are familiar with the process because it’s not as common as other issues. Juvenile courts don’t exist on a federal level, so state judges must oversee decisions regarding SIJS, and they may not have adequate experience or may be hesitant to exercise their authority in this manner. An experienced attorney, however, can set up the process with strong evidence indicating the need for the SIJS and help the judge understand why it is necessary.

One of the main aspects that must be proven is that it’s not in the child’s best interest to return to their home country, but proving this can be challenging. You may achieve this by proving that there isn’t living immediate family in your home country or that those who are there have neglected or abused you. These items can be shown either through the applicant’s testimony or that of a social worker, through medical records, or by other legal representatives.

Other Aspects to Consider

Also, through the SIJS process, the applicant may become eligible for valuable opportunities that they wouldn’t have had access to as an undocumented child. Education opportunities, gainful employment, or furthering their career are all reasonable options should the process be successful.

In addition, the child can have the opportunity to reside in a stable environment and enjoy all the comforts of having a family environment rather than being in the state’s care.

All potential adoptive parents must complete a thorough evaluation to establish that they are capable of raising the juvenile and providing a safe environment for them.

What Does the Process Look Like?

Once it is determined that the applicant is a strong candidate to receive Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, your experienced immigration attorney can help you gather the necessary documentation, applications, and other relevant evidence.

Affidavits may be created discussing the child’s history, including testimonies from the child’s teachers, social workers, doctors, therapists, or other relevant professionals. These affidavits can provide necessary supporting information regarding the child’s best interests and history of abuse or neglect.

A court hearing is typically required for the judge to review the information and make a Special Findings Order, which acknowledges that the child is a viable applicant based on the evidence provided and can proceed with the application through the United States Citizen and Immigration Services for SIJS.

A petition requesting an adjustment of status must also be completed. If the USCIS deems the applicant eligible, they may grant that request, making the next steps to apply for permanent legal residency.

The Knowledge and Compassion That You Rely On

As mentioned above, effectively pursuing a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status can have its challenges as it’s a less common method of obtaining citizenship, and providing sufficient evidence can prove to be challenging.

Our team is led by an immigrant from El Salvador who provides firsthand experience on a personal level of what challenges may be ahead. Combine that compassion and understanding with the professional skillset obtained through learning and practicing law, and you have one of the most trusted and experienced allies you can find.

Our office is comprised of those who genuinely care and will tirelessly fight to find a reasonable solution for you or your loved one. Each of us deserves the right to be treated fairly and equally and the chance to be removed from an unhealthy home when necessary.

Call our office today at (973) 313-5794 to schedule your appointment and discuss your needs. We provide realistic resolution with a compassionate ear.

We look forward to serving you.

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