Please note that this guide is not a substitute for legal counsel. It is essential to consult with our Immigration Attorney who specializes in SIJS cases for the best advice tailored to your situation.
What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)?
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a legal provision in the United States designed to safeguard immigrant children from deportation in cases where one or both of their parents have abused, abandoned, neglected, or tragically passed away. It’s important to note that seeking SIJS doesn’t necessarily imply that parents are unfit or neglectful. Sometimes, SIJS is awarded to children because their parents, despite their best intentions, couldn’t provide adequate care. Furthermore, the possibility of one or both parents meeting the criteria for SIJ status arises in situations involving tragic events, such as their passing
Understanding the Role of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) in Removal Proceedings
Removal proceedings, also referred to as deportation proceedings, encompass the legal steps and hearings involved in the potential deportation or removal of non-U.S. citizens from the United States. These proceedings are initiated due to violations of immigration laws, which can include visa overstays or unlawful entry, criminal convictions, or other grounds that may render an individual ineligible to remain in the country.
During removal proceedings, individuals have the opportunity to present their case before an immigration judge. It’s important to note that there are two possible outcomes:
Deportation: If the judge rules against the individual, they may face deportation and be returned to their home country.
Relief to Stay: If the individual’s case is successful, they may be granted relief, which allows them to stay in the United States.
This is where Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) can be incredibly helpful. SIJS can serve as a legal solution to prevent deportation for immigrant children who have experienced abuse, abandonment, neglect, or the unfortunate loss of one or both parents. During removal proceedings, individuals can present their case to an immigration judge and request SIJS as a way to establish a path to permanent residency and avoid deportation. You can also explore our latest post on What Does ‘Dismissed Without Prejudice’ Meaning?
Eligibility for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS):
Not everyone is eligible to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.
To be eligible, you must:
- Be younger than 21 years old (Note: In some states, the application must be filed before you turn 18).
- Reside in the United States. (Usually for at least 6 mounts but check your jurisdiction)
- Not be married. If you are divorced, widowed, or have children, you may still apply, but you cannot marry while the application is in process.
- Demonstrate eligibility for lawful permanent residence. Many eligibility criteria concern criminal convictions. Specific criminal convictions may affect your chances of obtaining permanent residence. However, juvenile delinquencies typically do not count as criminal convictions. It’s essential to understand your past convictions fully.
- You must also have an order from a juvenile court stating two critical points:
- You cannot live with one or both of your parents due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect. This court order is essential and must indicate that someone else has custody of you, and returning to your home country is not in your best interest.
- Not in your best interest to return to your home country, based on various circumstances that differ by state, such as access to education, medical care, and familial support.
How to Apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS):
To apply for SIJS, you must complete five critical steps:
- Retain a qualified attorney specializing not only in immigration law but especially in Special Immigrant Juvenile Status . Regular consultations with your attorney are essential.
- Attend immigration court hearings and inform the court that you are applying for SIJS as an unaccompanied minor.
- Obtain a court order from a juvenile court that supports your SIJS application.
- Submit an SIJS petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and follow their instructions.
- Once your SIJS petition is approved, return to immigration court and request permission to become a lawful permanent resident.
Step 1: Find and Meet with an Attorney:
Prior to your upcoming court hearing, it’s crucial to secure legal representation. Choosing an attorney with expertise in SIJS can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. At the Law Office of Ghenadei Rusu, we are confident in our ability to assist you. Ensure you verify an attorney’s qualifications and reputation, and don’t hesitate to schedule an initial consultation. During this meeting, ask pertinent questions about their experience with SIJS cases and associated fees
Step 2: Attend Your First Immigration Court Hearing:
Your initial immigration court hearing holds significant importance. Ensure you have the correct trade of the herring, and if not, promptly contact your attorney, they will be able to provide you with the most updated court dates.
During the initial hearing(Master Hearing), you will encounter several key individuals:
- The Judge: This impartial figure will make decisions based on the facts presented.
- A government attorney representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): This attorney will examine the reasons for your potential removal.
- An interpreter: If you don’t speak English, an interpreter will be provided. The court hearing is a straightforward and concise process. You’ll respond to questions from the judge, including your status as an unaccompanied minor (If you do not have an attorney at this point, you can request additional time to find an attorney). The judge can also provide a list of attorneys who specialize in cases involving unaccompanied minors.
Step 3: Obtain Your Court Order from a Juvenile Court:
Your court order must affirm two key points: that you cannot live with one or both parents due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect, and that returning to your home country is not in your best interest. Your attorney will assist you in presenting evidence and testimony to support these claims.
Step 4: Submit Form I-360 to USCIS:
You will submit Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, to USCIS. If you have an attorney, they will guide you through this process. It’s essential to comply with USCIS requests while continuing to attend immigration court hearings.
Step 5: File for Lawful Permanent Resident Status:
Once USCIS approves your SIJS petition, you can apply for lawful permanent resident status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This step requires additional forms, including a medical exam, an application for permission to work, and others, depending on your circumstances. Please note that the timing of applying for residency is crucial, and you must wait for your priority date to become current.
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Preparing for Your Hearing:
During the individual hearing, an important decision awaits. The judge will determine whether to close the case and grant the attorney the opportunity to file for adjustment of status with the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), or to personally adjudicate the adjustment of status. Having legal representation at the individual hearing is crucial. Your attorney can guide you through this process, making sure that your case is handled effectively. They will strategize whether it’s in your best interest to proceed with closing the case for USCIS filing or if the judge’s adjudication is the preferred path. This decision can significantly impact your immigration journey, making it essential to have an experienced attorney by your side
Obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a complex process, but it offers a pathway to lawful permanent residency for immigrant children who have faced abuse, abandonment, or neglect. It’s crucial to consult with our immigration attorney who specializes in SIJS cases to navigate this process effectively.
At the Law Office of Ghenadie Rusu, our unwavering commitment is to deliver impeccable service of the highest quality to our esteemed clients. We consistently strive for positive legal outcomes, driven by our dedication to client satisfaction. With extensive experience in Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) cases, we take pride in our expertise in the field