Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) is a classification or protection that the United States government gives some immigrant youth under age 21 who have been

  • abused,
  • abandoned, or
  • neglected by a parent.

If you are classified as SIJ, you are eligible to apply for a green card and get permanent legal residency.

Immigration law can be complicated. It is important to talk to a good immigration lawyer f you are thinking about applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile classification.

Who is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status?

You may be eligible for special immigrant juvenile status if:

  1. You are not married,
  2. You are under the age of 21,
  3. You have been abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both of your parents,
  4. It would be in your best interest to stay in the United States rather than go back to your home country.

You may also be eligible if

  • one or both of your parents has died,
  • you never knew one or both of your parents, or
  • you are living with and being cared for by someone other than a parent.

You will still need to meet the marriage and age eligibility requirements listed above, and there would still need to be a determination that it’s in your best interest to stay in the U.S.

What do I have to do to get SIJ status?

Talk to a qualified immigration lawyer before you apply for SIJ. If you decide to go ahead, here are the steps.

  1. Your lawyer must ask the Juvenile Court or Probate and Family Court judge to issue a special order that says that you meet all the eligibility requirements. You should do this step as soon as possible, especially if you are close to turning 18. You must complete this step before you turn 21, it is generally easier when you receive this order before you turn 18.
  2. Your lawyer will file a copy of this decision from the Juvenile or Probate and Family Court with the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) They will ask USCIS to classify you as a “Special Immigrant Juvenile.” You must file your forms, including this decision, with USCIS before you turn 21.
  3. If your request is approved, you can look into applying to become a Legal Permanent Resident of the United States (green card). There is likely going to be a waiting period for you to receive your green card. You will need to have a current priority date according to the U.S. Department of State visa bulletin in order to apply for a green card. For information on when you can apply, see Special Immigrant Juvenile Status & Visa Availability on Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s website. If you have to wait to apply for your green card, then USCIS may review your case and let you know if you are eligible for Deferred Action and work authorization while you wait. If you are eligible for Deferred Action, then you can apply for work authorization. Talk to your immigration attorney about applying for a green card and/or Deferred Action and work authorization.
Can I ask for immigration status for a family member if I have SIJ?

No. If you get SIJ, you can’t ask for immigration status for your parents, brothers or sisters, even when only one of the parents abandoned, neglected, or abused you.


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