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SIJS Relief

By December 16, 2021Immigration
a group of youth high fiving each other

What does SIJS stand for?

SIJS stands for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. This is an immigration benefit available to certain undocumented immigrant youth who are under 21 years of age, unmarried and who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by one or both parents.

What benefits are actually granted?

SIJS is a pathway to legal permanent resident status for the minor where the minor is first granted protection from deportation and later opens the opportunity for the minor to apply for legal permanent resident status.

How does a minor apply for SIJS protection?

Before filing anything with the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services, (USCIS), an adult must petition for either guardianship or custody of the minor before a state court that has jurisdiction over the petition and the minor.

In addition to obtaining either a guardianship or custody order from the court, it is crucial to also obtain a predicate order from the judge articulating the following special findings:

  • That the minor is under 21,
  • That the minor is unmarried,
  • That the minor is dependent on a juvenile court or placed in the custody of an individual/entity, agency or juvenile court,
  • That reunification with one or both parents was not viable due to abuse, abandonment, neglect or similar basis under state law and
  • That it is not in the best interest of the minor to return to the country of origin.

Note that merely obtaining the guardianship or custody order is not sufficient to apply for SIJS relief and therefore the predicate order with special findings is a necessary requirement to qualify.

Once the state court orders are obtained, a petition can be filed before USCIS for SIJS protection. After the petition is approved, the subsequent application for the green card can be filed once the priority date of the petition is current.

What is a priority date and how does it affect filing of the green card application?

The priority date is the date that the immigration petition known as the form I-360 is properly filed with USCIS. The green card application, filed by using form I-485 cannot be filed until the priority date of the I-360 is current. Applicants for SIJS status are considered Special Immigrants who are counted against an annual cap available to Special Immigrants. Therefore, to determine whether the I-485 can be filed, you review the publication known as the visa bulletin published by the Department of State where you look at the EB-4 category and look for the date found under the country or region in the world where the minor is from. If the priority date on the I-360 is earlier than the date published on the bulletin, you will need to wait until the date on the bulletin is equal or earlier than the priority date on the I-360.

You can view more information on the visa bulletin, by following the link here.

You can access the actual visa bulletin by following the link here.

How long will it take before being able to file the I-485 after approval of the I-360?

That will depend on what region of the world the minor is from. Most of the regions are current, so the I-360 can be filed with the I-485 simultaneously. However, for some countries from Central America and Mexico, the wait time is backlogged a few years.

Any other factors that need to be considered when attempting to obtain SIJS protection and the green card?

  • USCIS must receive the I-360 petition by the day before the Child’s 21st
  • The minor can age out once the petition is properly filed with USCIS and still qualify for the relief and the green card as long as the I-360 was filed before turning 21 years of age.
  • Although a US Citizen can normally petition a parent for a green card, a US Citizen that obtained Legal Permanent Resident status through SIJS relief will be barred from petitioning for a green card for a parent even if a parent was never found to have abused, neglected or abandoned the minor.
  • Although the cut-off date for immigration purposes is 21 years of age, some state courts consider a youth to be a minor who is less than 18 years of age and in those jurisdictions, it maybe difficult or not possible to obtain the state court orders under the claim that the court does not have jurisdiction over the minor.

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