The SIJ program offers a path to US Citizenship for Foreign-born Children
Children of immigrants who have been deported, incarcerated or passed away need the assistance of an experienced Immigration Attorney who understands SIJS. These children are left without a parent through no fault of their own. Unaccompanied minors who were not born in the US or foreign-born children who are abandoned be their parents in the US are especially vulnerable since they are exposed to the complex issues of immigration without the benefit of parental help. These children can be placed in State custody and subject to detention or deportation. Undocumented children can actually benefit from the Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) program. Adults over 21 do not qualify for this program.
This program has been around since 1990 when Congress created the Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status. The program was further refined in 2008 when the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act streamlined SIJ procedures and modified the eligibility requirements for SIJ status making the process easier to understand.
ed The purpose of the SIJ program is to help foreign children in the United States who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both of their parents. This program is under the control of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is designed to help foreign-born children who are unable to be reunited with a parent. Theses children can eventually get a green card because of their SIJ status. Once the child has a green card they obtain Lawful Permanent Residence. (LPR) Children who get a green card through the SIJ program are able to live in the United States, go to school in the United States and work permanently. This program offers these children a path to US citizenship.
Children who get a Green Card under this program can petition for their brothers and sisters to get green cards but only they after they have become a US Citizen. And, they will never be able to petition for a green card for their parents.
SIJ is a Federal Program but Requires State Court Action
For a child to be eligible, a US state juvenile court or Probate court that makes judicial determinations about the custody and care of juveniles must:
- Make the child dependent on the court or place the child under the legal custody of a state agency or some other individual appointed by the state
- Declare that the child cannot be reunited with one or both of his or her parents due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a similar reason under state law
- Declare that it is not in the best interests of the child to be returned to his or her home country (Country of current citizenship.)
In New Jersey, the NJ Family Court / Family Division is responsible for the above. These courts are organized at the County Level in NJ. For instance in Hudson County, the Hudson Vicinage Family Division located in the Hudson County Administration Building at 595 Newark Avenue Jersey City, New Jersey 07306 would be the place to bring the action. In Essex County, the County Family Court is located in the Robert N. Wilentz Court Complex at 212 Washington Street, Newark NJ 07102.
In New York City, the Family Court is located at 60 Lafayette St. NY, NY 10013. Each state has its own procedures for dealing with abused and neglected children. So, when searching for an attorney for SIJ you need to ensure that they are licensed to practice in the State where the action is brought and also that they understand the federal laws around the SIJ process.
You may apply for a Green Card based on SIJ status at the same time you petition to get the SIJ status. However, you have to make sure a visa number is immediately available at the time of filing, and USCIS has jurisdiction over your application to adjust status. If you need help with knowing what to file and when, discuss your situation with an SIJS attorney.
Eligibility Requirements for filing for SIJ Status
The requirements to successfully file for SIJ Status are fairly straight forward. On the date of the filing of the I-360, the child must be under 21 years of age. The state court must order must be in effect on the filing date of the I-360 and still be in effect when the USCIS makes its decision unless the child has aged out through no fault of his o her own. The child cannot be married on the filing date of the I-360 and still be in effect when the USCIS makes its decision. The child must also be inside the US when the I-360 is filed with the USCIS.
Filing for SIJ Status with the USCIS
Below is the list of forms you may need:
- I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
- I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility
- I-912, Request for Fee Waiver
If you need help with any forms, we recommend you contact a qualified Immigration Attorney who is familiar with the SIJ process. If you know of someone who is about to be deported, is incarcerated or recently passed away that has children, make sure that the children are able to be protected by an experienced immigration attorney.