Special Immigrant Juvenile Classification (SIJ or SIJS)

What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

If you have survived abuse, neglect or abandonment and are in state custody (such as foster care) you may qualify for Special Immigration Juvenile Status.

What is abuse, neglect, or abandonment?

Question for Adriana: Please insert information or definitions about abuse, neglect, abandonment under Florida state law.

(Taylor’s Thoughts) Abuse – can be physical or emotional harm, any kind of physical punishment that leaves marks on you, if anyone hurts you

Neglect – not having your needs met,

Abandonment – either parent leaving you

A picture of an adorable blue cartoon pit bull named Scrappy.

SCRAPPY TIP: TIP: The things that happened to you that qualify as abuse, neglect or abandonment can have happened at any time and place in your life.  This includes things that have happened outside of your child welfare case and the reason you were removed. The abuse, neglect, or abandonment can have happened in the United States or in another country.  For example, if you have a parent who abandoned you before you came to United States, this may qualify.

How do I know if I qualify to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

You must meet the following:

  1. You are currently in the US
  2. You are under the age of 21 when filing the petition
  3. You are unmarried from when you first file the petition until there is a decision
  4. Reunification with at least one parent is not possible
  5. Due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment
  6. And it is in your best interest is to remain in the United States rather than return to the home country.
A picture of an adorable blue cartoon pit bull named Scrappy.

SCRAPPY TIP: TIP: Being abused, neglected, or abandoned could have happened in United States or in your home country, or in another country for you to qualify.

What is a juvenile court?

Juvenile court is a court that can make decisions about you and your life such as where you will live and what is in your best interest. Some examples are family court, probate court, juvenile justice court, dependency court, divorce court, or similar, depending on the state.

Do both my parents have to be involved in the abuse, neglect, or abandonment for me to qualify?

No, you can still qualify if you have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one parent, even if reunification is a goal with the other parent.

Should I wait for termination of parental rights before applying for SIJ?

Termination of parental rights is not required. The court only needs to decide that reunification with at least one parent is not possible, for example when reunification is no longer a goal in the case plan. Generally, the court should decide that you cannot reunify with your parent(s)  for the rest of your childhood.

What is the timeline for SIJ decision?

Generally, a decision will be made on a petition for SIJS within 180  of filing the petition if there are no errors.

Do I have to keep my child welfare case open in order to avoid losing my SIJ approval?

Child welfare case needs to be open until SIJS is approved, which is around 3 to 6 months. The case does not need to stay open until the green card is available.[1]. This continuing jurisdiction requirement does not bar relief when juvenile court jurisdiction terminated before the SIJS petition is adjudicated solely because.

After SIJS is approved, you can be reunified with the other parent, adopted, placed in a permanent guardianship, or age out foster care while you are waiting to get your green card.

If I am approved for SIJS is there any way it can be taken away?

Yes, if any of the following happen, your SIJS status can be taken away:

  1. Reunification with one or both parents is ordered by a court when the court has already said it was not possible
  2. If a judge decides that it is in your best interest to go back to the country of origin.
  3. Other reasons your approval could be taken are if you got arrested for drug charges or other serious criminal convictions. You would get notice if your SIJ status was being taken away and would have the right to appeal. Talk to an attorney right away.  
A picture of an adorable blue cartoon pit bull named Scrappy.

SCRAPPY TIP: TIP: Reunification with the non-offending parent does NOT affect SIJS status.

What Happens after SIJS is approved?

You are protected from deportation once your SIJ status is approved. The next step is to get your green card. There are only a certain number of green cards given out every year. If there are not enough green cards for the people who have been approved, you will be put on a waitlist. While you are on a wait list, you are allowed to remain in the United States under what is called “deferred action” which will protect you from being deported, or sent back to your home country.  Deferred action means that you are allowed to be in the United States, able to work and get documents like a government ID card, and a Social Security number.

What if I “age out” while waiting for my SIJ petition to be approved or while I am on the waitlist for a green card?

You must make sure that your application for SIJS is received before you turn 21. If you turn 21 after your SIJS application is received, or while you are waiting for a green card, this will not effect you qualifying.

If I am adopted, what effect will that have on my SIJ petition?

Adoption has no effect on an approved SIJ petition.  Adoption may allow you to get citizenship through your adoptive parents, if you are under 16 years old when the adoption becomes final (or 18 if it is a sibling adoption) and meet other requirements. Talk to your immigration attorney to understand your options.

Can I help my family members with their legal status if I get SIJ status?

If you get your green card or eventually become a citizen through the SIJ process you may be able to request your siblings or spouse, if you have one, get legal status because of their relationship to you. This is called family-based immigration process. However, you are not able to request status for either of your parents. This is the case even if findings were only made against one parent.

Flow Chart: 4 Steps in the SIJ Process

  1. State Court Order: state court with authority over your custody makes SIJ findings and order as described above. This has to happen before you are 18 in most cases.
  2. Immigration petition is submitted with the state court order and proof of your birthday. This has to be submitted and received by USCIS before you turn 21.
  3. If approved (about 3 to 6 months), Child received notice of deferred action and is eligible to apply for ID and SSN while on “wait list”.
  4. Check with your immigration attorney to see when the “priority date” is current; this may take several years. When this happens, you can apply for the green card, LPR status. May naturalize after 5 years, if otherwise qualified.

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