In 1990, the U.S. Congress enacted a federal law to help undocumented children who qualify for permanent residency by a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). In 2008, the legal definition of Sikhs was clarified and expanded under new reauthorized legislation.
SIJS helps certain undocumented children in the state’s juvenile system become permanent residents. Children in the adoption or guardianship process who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected may obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), and based on that, apply for permanent residency.
How can I apply for Special Immigrant Youth (SIJ) status?
Once you get the order from a state juvenile court with the necessary statements, you can apply for SIJ status with federal immigration authorities. Form I – 360 must be filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Qualifying requirements for Sikh applicants:
- The applicant must be single and under the age of 21. (Many children may not be able to get the necessary court order if they are over 18 years of age.)
- He / she must be declared a dependent of a “juvenile court” in the United States, or the court must legally place the child in the custody of a state agency or department, or an individual or entity appointed by the state or juvenile court, while the child is in the United States. The child must remain under the jurisdiction of that court during the Sikh petition procedure.
- A “juvenile court” is defined as a court located in the United States that has jurisdiction under state law to make judicial determinations regarding the custody and care of minors. This includes children in dependency, adoption, guardianship, and delinquency proceedings.
- In addition to the determinations above, the juvenile court may also determine the following::
- Reunification of the child with one or both parents is not feasible as a result of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or other similar basis under the laws of the state; and,
- That it is not in the best interest of the child to return to his or her native country or last place of habitual residence.
Benefits of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
- Obtaining special immigrant juvenile status gives the minor legal permanent resident status. This means that the child is able to live and work permanently in the United States, travel freely outside the United States, and gain access to financial aid for college.
- The child is also entitled to certain public benefits and may be able to apply for U.S. citizenship five years after becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
- SIJS beneficiaries can remain in the United States legally and obtain the same benefits as a permanent resident. This includes lower tuition fees than an international student and the right to work in the country.
Special Immigrant Juvenile status may be a good option for children who are experiencing dangerous situations of abuse or neglect in their home countries. Special Immigrant Juvenile status may also be an option for a child who has been abandoned by a parent, especially if there was domestic violence or abuse prior to that parent’s departure.
If you or someone you appreciate thinks you may qualify for special juvenile immigrant status or some other immigration benefit you can call (213) 309-9123 to make an appointment with one of our immigration attorneys.