Many migrant children enter our country unlawfully each year, some alone and some with a single parent. Our government has created a pathway to status in the U.S. for these “unaccompanied” minors called Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Depending on the state the child resides in, the guardian of the child can seek custody, guardianship, or the equivalent. Upon the granting of a State Order for Custody or Guardianship, the child will be eligible to file for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Once this status is granted the child is eligible for a green card as soon as a visa becomes available for their particular country of citizenship.
According to USCIS, the full eligibility list of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status:
- You must be under 21 years of age at the time you file the SIJ petition.
- You must be currently living in the United States. You cannot apply from outside the country to come to the United States on SIJ classification both at the time you file the SIJ petition and at the time USCIS makes a decision on your petition.
- You must be unmarried, meaning you have never been married or your previous marriage ended in annulment, divorce, or death both at the time you file the SIJ petition and at the time USCIS makes a decision on your petition.
- You must have a valid juvenile court order issued by a state court in the United States which finds that you are dependent on the court, or in the custody of a state agency or department or an individual or entity appointed by the court; You cannot be reunified with one or both of your parents because of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a a similar basis under state law, and it is not in your best interests to return to the country of nationality or last habitual residence of you and your parents, both at the time you file the SIJ petition and at the time USCIS makes a decision on your petition. Exceptions to this, is that you do not need to currently be under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court that issued your order if the court’s jurisdiction ended solely because you were adopted or placed in permanent guardianship or you aged out of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction.
- You must be eligible for USCIS consent. This means that you must have sought the juvenile court order to obtain relief from abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar basis under state law and not primarily to obtain an immigration benefit at the time USCIS makes a decision on your petition.
- You must have written consent from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to the court’s jurisdiction if you are currently in the custody of HHS and the juvenile court order also changes your custody status or placement at the time USCIS makes a decision on your petition.
If you would like more information on how to secure Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for a child in Mississippi, contact Attorney Angela Trehan of Chhabra & Gibbs, P.A. at 601-948-8005.