Law Offices of Cindy Ramjattan Paul - Immigration lawyer, Nutley, NJ

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status - From Unaccompanied Minor to Residency Status

As seen in the news, the dramatic increase in unaccompanied children entering the United States has presented a huge problem. Unaccompanied minors are children under the age of 21, usually from Central America, who cross the Mexico-U.S. border without a parent or guardian. They take the perilous journey in order to escape the danger back home and hope for a chance at a better life in the U.S. One possible form of relief by the U.S. government is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). SIJS is a temporary immigration benefit that provides a pathway to legal status for abused, neglected or abandoned minors, who meet certain statutory requirements.  Children who get a Green Card through SIJS could work and live permanently in the U.S. However, they can never petition for a Green Card for their parents. They can only petition for a Green Card for their brothers and sisters when they become United States Citizens (U.S.C.s). To qualify for SIJS, a child victim must meet the following four requirements:

  • Be unmarried;
  • Be under 21 years of age and under the jurisdiction of a juvenile court at the time of filing the SIJ petition;
  • Be physically present in the U.S.; and
  • Have an order from a juvenile court that makes the following three findings, explained below: 
  1. Family Reunification;
  2. Dependency/Custody; and
  3. Best Interests. 

Family Reunification- A juvenile court judge must find that a child cannot reunite with one or both of his/her parents because of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis, depending on state law. The abuse may have occurred in the U.S. or prior to the child’s arrival in the U.S.

Dependency/Custody- Next, the judge must declare the juvenile dependent on the court or legally commit the child under the custody of either an agency, department of a state, or an individual or entity appointed by a state or juvenile court. This is typically done through guardianship proceedings through a state court.  

Best Interests- Lastly, the judge must also find that it would not be in the child’s best interest to be returned to his or her country of origin. 

A SIJS applicant must file at least two USCIS forms in order to get an SIJ-based green card: 

  • , Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or 
  • Special Immigrant
    , Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. 

Both forms can be filed together. Alternatively, the Form I-360 can be filed first while the applicant waits for a decision before filing the Form I-485. 

If you would like to apply for SIJS or have further inquiries, please feel free to contact our office to schedule a consultation with our highly experienced immigration attorney.For more information,

please visit the USCIS website at: