WHAT IS SIJS?
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is an immigration classification available to certain undocumented immigrants under the age of 21 who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both parents. SIJS is a way for immigrants under twenty-one to apply for and obtain legal permanent residence in the United States.
There are very specific requirements for a child to qualify for SIJS, and the criteria are:
1. The applicant must be under 21 years old;
2. He/she must be unmarried;
3. He/she must be declared dependent in a juvenile court. This means that the Family Court must take jurisdiction over a petition addressing the needs of the applicant;
4. Reunification with one or both of the child’s parents must no longer be a viable option due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar basis under state law; AND
5. It is not in the best interests of the minor to return to his/her country of nationality or last habitual residence.
There are many benefits to obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. SIJS waives several types of inadmissibility that would otherwise prevent an immigrant from becoming a lawful permanent resident (getting a green card). For example, SIJS waives unlawful entry, working without authorization, status as a public charge, and certain immigration violations. Once a minor receives SIJS, he/she will be able to adjust his/her status to that of a lawful permanent resident, obtain work authorization, and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.
There are two main stages in obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. First, the minor must engage in a proceeding in the Family or Surrogate’s Court in the county where he/she resides, (i.e., custody, adoption, or guardianship). As part of this proceeding, the minor must obtain a “special findings order” that declares the minor’s eligibility for SIJS. Although guardianship is the most common way for the Family Court to obtain jurisdiction over a minor, it is also possible to bring a motion requesting the order though a custody, neglect, adoption, permanency hearing for children in foster care, or PINS (Person in Need of Supervision) proceeding. However it is done, receipt of this order is a pre-requisite to applying for SIJS status.
The second stage, after receiving this order from the Family or Surrogate’s Court, the minor may then apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for SIJS. SIJS would bestow upon the child lawful permanent residence and work authorization.
SPECIAL IMMIGRANT JUVENILE STATUS (SIJS) RESOURCES:
Safe Passage Pro Bono SIJS Manual:
Please click on link below to access the Safe Passage Pro Bono SIJS Manual, a step-by-step guide on how to proceed through Special Immigrant Juvenile Status case.
Safe Passage Project SIJS Manual, Current as of November 2014
***NEW*** Advisory Council on Immigration Issues in Family Court Memo dated January 2017
***NEW*** GF-42 SIJS Order (Family Court) dated January 2017
New York Abandonment Case Law, Current as of November 2014
New York Neglect Case Law, Current as of November 2014
Neglect Case Law Nov. 2014
New York Abuse Case Law, Current as of November 2014
Abuse Case Law Nov. 2014
Adjustment of Status Overview and Checklist:
The last step in a SIJS case, after procuring the requisite special findings and guardianship/custodial/adoption order from the family court, and (if applicable) closing the deportation proceedings, is filing an application for adjustment of status. The Service’s approval of an application to adjustment status will result in a green card for the applicant. Please click on the link below to access an overview and checklist of the process.
Overview and Checklist current as of 08.12.14
USCIS Sample Forms for SIJS Petition and Adjustment of Status:
Click below for sample forms prepared by the Safe Passage Project, which include G-28, I-360, I-485, I-765, and G-325A.
Monumental SIJS Decision: Guardianship for Natural Parents:
On February 5, 2014, the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, reached a monumental decision for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases, clarifying that New York State Family Courts do in fact have the authority to appoint a natural parent to be the guardian of his or her own children. The court explained that under the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, any person may petition for guardianship of an infant. SCPA §1703. Therefore, the court reasoned that since the statute does not impose any limitations, appointment of guardianship may also be granted to a natural parent. The court linked its reasoning to prior decisions involving contests for guardianship between a natural parent and a relative or nonrelative of a child, where the natural parent has been named as the guardian or co-guardian of the child. Matter of Revis v. Marzan (100 AD 3d 1004); Matter of Justina S. (180 AD 2d 641).
Completing the I-360 Form for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) by Susan Henner:
This video provides a step by step guide on how to complete the I-360 Form which is used when filing an application for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).
Click to view video: http://nyls.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/7e2b634e763447adba3b0792a1de0e631d
Click to view Form I-360:
Series of Training Videos on the Basic Requirements of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS):
Professor Lenni B. Benson filmed a series of training videos that are divided into three parts. See links below.
Click here for Part I
Click here for Part II
Click here for Part III
Please click here for an outline encompassing all three training videos.