Special immigrant juveniles (SIJs) are immigrant minors who have been neglected, abandoned, or abused. A special immigrant juvenile green card (also called a “special immigrant juvenile visa”), which gives an SIJ lawful permanent residence in the U.S., may be obtained with help from a Boston immigration attorney. To obtain a special immigrant juvenile green card:
- First, a state juvenile or family court must determine that an immigrant minor is dependent, in the custody of the state, and can’t be reunited with one or both parents because of abandonment, abuse, or neglect.
- Then, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must grant special immigrant juvenile status to the minor.
Special immigrant juvenile status must be granted prior to (or at the same time as) approval of the child’s lawful permanent residence and green card.
If you are fighting for the custody of a neglected, abandoned, or abused immigrant child, you’ll want the child to have a special immigrant juvenile green card. How does a juvenile immigrant obtain a special immigrant juvenile green card? Keep reading for the answers you may need.
How Does the Process Begin?
In order for an immigrant minor to qualify for SIJ status, a state court must determine that the minor has been neglected, abandoned, or abused by one or both parents, and the court also must determine that a return to the home nation will not be in the child’s best interests.
Someone may report a neglected, abandoned, or abused child to the Department of Children and Families, a child welfare agency, or the police. Sometimes, another family member reports the abuse and then fights for the child’s custody.
How Does a Child Qualify for SIJ Status?
If that child is not already a lawful permanent resident in the U.S., seeking special immigrant juvenile status may be the best option for the child. Seeking special immigrant juvenile status begins by having a state court determine that the child is neglected, abandoned, or abused.
Additionally, the youth must be under age 21, currently in the U.S., and must remain single throughout the process to receive special immigrant juvenile status. A juvenile who has been convicted of certain crimes or who is inadmissible for another reason will not qualify.
Every child’s case is unique, and the details will matter. A juvenile delinquency disposition isn’t usually considered a “criminal conviction” by immigration authorities, although drug crime and violent crime convictions will, in some cases, make a juvenile immigrant ineligible for SIJ status.
What Is a State Court’s Role?
By including the state juvenile and family courts in the process, federal immigration law ensures that any findings related to family law or child protection are made by judges who have family law and child protection experience and expertise.
The juvenile or family court does not grant SIJ status or lawful permanent residence; that is solely the job of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The role of the court is to make the determination of neglect, abuse, or abandonment necessary for SIJ status eligibility.
How Is Neglect, Abuse, or Abandonment Determined?
A Boston immigration lawyer may request a hearing to show a Massachusetts judge that a child has been neglected, abused, or abandoned and should not be returned to his or her home nation. That attorney will then introduce evidence that may include:
- testimony from family members and/or the child
- medical, police, and social workers’ reports
- witness affidavits, statements from teachers, and any other pertinent evidence
How Will a Massachusetts Immigration Attorney Help?
After a state court determines that a juvenile has been neglected, abused, or abandoned, a Boston immigration attorney will prepare the extensive paperwork that will be required to obtain SIJ status and a special immigrant juvenile green card. That paperwork will include:
- Form I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant)
- Form I-485 (Application to Register for Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
- Form I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record)
- Form G-28 (Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative)
Immigration forms are quite complicated. Having the help of a Boston immigration lawyer ensures that the required forms are accurate and complete so that – at least on your end – there are no mistakes or misunderstandings that could delay the process.
While the I-360 petition for special immigrant juvenile status and the I-485 request for a special immigrant juvenile green card may be submitted simultaneously, USCIS will not process the I-485 green card request until the I-360 petition has been approved.
Will an Interview Be Required?
Whether or not a child must attend an I-360 interview with immigration authorities will depend on which USCIS district is processing the petition. Some USCIS districts approve I-360 petitions on the basis of the paperwork alone. Other districts require interviews with a USCIS officer.
If the child is seeking both special immigrant juvenile status and a special immigrant juvenile green card, the USCIS officer who conducts the interview may adjudicate the I-360 and the I-485 petitions simultaneously.
If an I-360 interview is required, the USCIS officer may want to determine if the petition was submitted in good faith and may question whether the juvenile court order was obtained primarily for immigration reasons rather than protection from abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
The petition will be rejected if USCIS determines that no abandonment, neglect, or abuse has taken place and that the juvenile is simply seeking to obtain a green card. Children who are seeking SIJ status – and the adults who are seeking their custody – should have a Massachusetts immigration lawyer help them prepare for an I-360 interview if that interview is required.
What Else Should You Know?
The rejection of an I-360 petition may be appealed to the Administrative Appeals Office of USCIS. Your immigration attorney will handle that appeal if it’s necessary. Your immigration attorney will also explain your other immigration options and alternatives.
You should also understand that the current immigration system is outdated, slow, and cumbersome. Processing an immigration petition takes a substantial amount of time, and even the best immigration attorney cannot make the system move faster for you.
If you are dealing with any immigration-related concern, you should schedule a consultation promptly with a Massachusetts immigration attorney who will review your circumstances and work to resolve the matter on your behalf and in your favor.