Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), often referred to as the "juvenile visa," stands out as a promising option for individuals seeking immigration status in the United States. This article will delve into the key aspects of SIJS, its eligibility requirements, and the two-step process involved in obtaining immigration status.

Eligibility Requirements:
To be eligible for SIJS, individuals must meet four crucial requirements:

  1. Age Criteria: Applicants must be under 21 years of age (for Maryland and Washington, D.C. residents) or under 18 years of age (for Virginia residents).
  2. Marital Status: They should not be legally married.
  3. Experienced Adversity: Eligible individuals must have faced abuse, abandonment, or neglect from one or both of their parents.
  4. Best Interest Not to Return: It must be deemed not in their "best interest" to return to their home country.

Understanding Legal Requirements:
The legal requirement concerning "abuse, abandonment, or neglect" can be intricate and varies depending on the minor's location. Notably, success has been achieved in cases where minors are in regular communication with parents but haven't received financial support since coming to the U.S. Additionally, cases involving the death of one biological parent, even without prior abuse, abandonment, or neglect, have proven successful.

The Process:
Obtaining immigration status through SIJS involves a two-step process:

  1. Family Court Case: The first step requires a court case in a state family court, where the minor must have a guardian—an adult willing to provide legal custody until the minor's 21st birthday. Success in the family court case paves the way for the next step.
  2. I-360 Petition: The second step involves filing a petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for immigration status, known as the I-360 Petition. This must be done before the minor's 21st birthday to remain eligible for SIJS relief.

Advantages of SIJS:
Compared to other forms of relief, such as asylum or cancellation of removal, SIJS is considered more accessible. Importantly, it is not discretionary and doesn't require approval from an immigration judge.

If you believe you or your child may be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, it is crucial to consult with an attorney promptly. The legal team can evaluate the specific facts of your case, providing guidance through the process and increasing the chances of a successful application. SIJS stands as a valuable avenue for those seeking a pathway to U.S. citizenship amidst challenging circumstances.