Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) can be granted to juveniles who have faced abuse, abandonment, or neglect by a parent.

How does immigration law deal with juveniles? In other words, do juveniles go through the same immigration system as adults, or are there particular laws that apply to juvenile immigrants in certain circumstances? Cruelly, the government often does try to deport children, even young children. However, special relief may be available to children who have arrived in the country.

If a child (under 18 years old) falls into the category of a “Special Immigrant Juvenile,” then she may be eligible for Special Immigration Juvenile Status (SIJS), or SIJ classification. SIJS is available under a particular federal law that provides undocumented minors and other immigrant youth who are in the state’s juvenile system with a path toward a lawful immigration status—including eventual permanent residence and citizenship. In order to be eligible for SIJS, a juvenile typically must have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents. However, an immigrant child may also qualify for SIJS by being “dependent on a juvenile court,” meaning that the child falls under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction for a number of reasons.

If you need assistance seeking lawful immigration status in the United States for a juvenile who has been abused, abandoned, neglected, a victim of extreme cruelty, is in juvenile delinquency proceedings, or otherwise needs to be protected by a juvenile court, an experienced Tennessee immigration attorney can speak with you about your options.

How Does a Juvenile Become Eligible for SIJ Classification?

When a juvenile (child) obtains SIJ classification, he or she may be able to qualify for a green card (also known as lawful permanent residency). In order for a juvenile to be eligible for SIJ classification, all of the following conditions must be true of the juvenile:

  • Currently under the age of 21;
  • Living in the United States;
  • Unmarried (can include juveniles who were never married, as well as juveniles who were married but the marriage ended in an annulment, a divorce, or the death of the spouse);
  • Be eligible for USCIS consent, which includes a finding that the juvenile sought a juvenile court order for relief from abuse, neglect, or abandonment by a parent; and
  • If you are currently in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), you must have written consent from HHS or the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

In addition, you must have a valid juvenile court order that was issued in the United States. That court order must say all of the following:

  • You are dependent on the court or another state agency or department;
  • You cannot be reunified with your parents because of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a similar issue under Tennessee law; and
  • It is not in your best interests to return to the country you came to the United States from.

There are some exceptions in limited circumstances, and you should discuss your particular case with a Tennessee immigration lawyer to learn about your eligibility for SIJ classification. Our office is equipped to handle both the required order in Tennessee juvenile courts and the petition to the immigration service.

Filing a Petition for SIJ Classification

If you want to petition for SIJ classification, you typically must file the following:

  • Form I-360, “Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant”;
  • Evidence of your age (which can include a birth certificate, passport, official identity document, or another document);
  • Valid juvenile court order;
  • Written consent from HHS, if required; and
  • Form G-28 if you have an attorney.

Once you obtain SIJ classification, you can be eligible to apply for a green card. To apply for a green card, you must file Form I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.”

Contact a Tennessee Immigration Attorney

Do you have questions about seeking SIJ classification? An experienced Tennessee immigration lawyer can help with your case. The advocates at Ozment Law are dedicated to helping immigrants in the Nashville area and can tell you more about SIJ classification. Contact us for more details.

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