Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (also known as SIJ or SIJS) is a protection for minor children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by at least one parent. This can include orphans as well as the children of single parents. A young person who qualifies for SIJ can apply for a green card (lawful permanent residence) and eventually become a citizen. SIJ can also be a defense in removal proceedings.
The first step for SIJ is to obtain a “predicate order” in your state or local family court, confirming that at least one parent abused, abandoned, or neglected you, that it is not in your best interest to return to your home country, and that you cannot reunite with your parent(s). Each state and local court has a different process for this, and our attorneys may refer you to a local attorney who practices in the local court to advise you. Sometimes this order may involve adoption, guardianship, or custody. In many states, you must complete this process before turning 18 years old; other states have jurisdiction up to age 19, 20, or even 21.
The second step for SIJ is the I-360 Petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile, which is filed with US Citizenship and Immigration Services. This petition has no fee, and must be filed before you turn 21.
The final step for SIJ is the I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status (green card application). Depending on which country you are from, you may be able to file this application at the same time as your I-360, or you may have to wait several months or even years. This is because Congress has allowed only a limited number of green cards for SIJ each year, and some countries (currently Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico) may have a “waiting list.” If you are in removal proceedings, you may be able to terminate your case to file your green card application with USCIS, or you may have to file it with the judge.