Cost and Time of Getting a Green Card Through SIJ

In 1990, Congress created a federal statute to assist illegal children who meet specific criteria gain permanent residency under the Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) category. Legislation altered the legal definition of SIJ in 2008, expanding the range of children who qualify.

SIJ status is now beneficial to some minors who have been mistreated, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents.

These minors can apply for SIJ status and, once granted, can apply for permanent residency. Children who use the status are sometimes placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge (Executive Office for Immigration Review or EOIR). Other children who apply for the status are not in immigration procedures and wish to get legal immigration status in the United States.

If you are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status, you may be asking how long it will take and how much it would cost you to obtain your green card through SIJ. Continue reading to find out how to get your green card through SIJ, as well as the costs and timelines associated with the process. Working with an immigration attorney is also a big help in fulfilling your dream of becoming a lawful permanent resident in the United States.

What Are the Requirements for Classification as a Special Immigrant Juvenile?

The following are the prerequisites to be classified as an SIJ (Special Immigrant Juvenile):

  • You are under 21 years of age
  • You’re Currently living in the US
  • You’re unmarried (single, annulled, divorced, widowed)
  • Have a valid juvenile court order declaring that: 
    • You are under the custody of a state agency or a person as declared by the juvenile court 
    • It is  impossible to be reunited with any or both of your parents due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or any similar reason.
    • Returning to your country or that of your parents’ last habitual residence is not in your best interests.

A “juvenile court” is a court in the United States that has authority under state law to make judicial decisions concerning juveniles’ custody and care. Juvenile courts are not federal courts but rather state courts.

How Can SIJ Status Be Requested?

SIJ status can be requested with the federal immigration authorities once the state juvenile court ruling with the requisite findings is acquired. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should receive Form I-360 (USCIS). The I-360 does not require a fee to be filed. Furthermore, USCIS has no restriction on the number of I-360 applications it can approve each year.

Before making a judgment, USCIS can either seek an interview with the petitioning juvenile or approve or refuse the I-360 petition. Without first obtaining further information about the procedure in the state juvenile court, USCIS may reject the petition.

What Happens if USCIS Grants the Petition for SIJ Status?

It’s a step forward if USCIS approves the petition, but keep in mind that 1) if the juvenile is in removal proceedings, those proceedings do not stop or end just because the petition was approved, and 2) the juvenile has the right to apply for permanent residence through Form I-485, but only if a visa number is immediately available. When the priority date for the immigrant category (EB-4 in this scenario) is current, a visa number is instantly accessible. The priority date is always included in the notification approving the I-360 petition.

The permanent residence has its own set of conditions, apart from SIJ status. It will be determined if the juvenile is acceptable under immigration laws before becoming a resident. There is a price associated with Form I-485, although certain people can submit the form for free.

The immigration court has authority over the application to alter status to a lawful permanent residence (the I-485) for juveniles in removal proceedings. The court will hold a hearing to rule on residence in some instances, and in others, it will dismiss the case so that USCIS may make the judgment.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card Through SIJ Status?

The first step in becoming a green card holder through the SIJ is to acquire all necessary documents and information for the application. Generally, once our office has received payment in full, we have received all of your documents, and you have responded to all of our questions. We can submit your application within three weeks after gathering all of the evidence we need to submit your application to the USCIS.

The USCIS is constitutionally required to decide within 180 days after receiving an SIJ application; however, it frequently takes between 8 and 12 months. Please keep in mind that this is not for your green card application. The processing of your green card may take much longer than expected, depending on where you live and the wait periods at your local USCIS.

Currently, as of August 2020, it takes between one and three years for the vast majority of our clients to be approved for their permanent residence status.

If you are a subject of removal proceedings, the process will take longer depending on whether the court retains jurisdiction over the case. Frequently, you’ll have to wait until a court hearing before finding out how the judge intends to proceed. The USCIS will not decide on your green card application until they decide on your SIJ application.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Green Card Through SIJ Status?

At Andres Mejer Law, we start with the three questions and develop a strategy for you. We only take on clients who can benefit from our services.

  • Do you qualify for a green card or permanent residency through an SIJ?
  • Is there something in your past that can disqualify you, such as multiple entries, prior denied petitions, criminal charges, removal proceedings?
  • Can we fix that problem by filing a motion to re-open, post-conviction relief, or a waiver?

Because we concentrate on these issues, the expenses for two customers applying for SIJ might be drastically different. Whether you are submitting for an SIJ or acquiring permanent resident status through SIJ, this is how we look at immigration costs in general.

We start by looking at your background. We charge $1,000 per person for the following services:

  • To order documents from immigration through the FOIA process (7 agencies) for prior border contacts, deportations, or prior petitions.
  • To order copies from criminal or juvenile courts and a background search.

If you are disqualified for any reason, we must correct it through a waiver, re-opening a criminal case, re-opening a removal order, or refiling for relief. The price ranges from $3,000 to over $15,000, depending on the service. It all depends on the seriousness of the accusations you were facing.

A USCIS officer may interview you after filing Form I-360 or Form I-485. We highly advise you to bring an attorney with you to the meeting. Because if you are denied, you will be placed on removal proceedings. We usually charge $1,500 to accompany you to an immigration interview.

We charge $1,500 to accompany you to your court appearance if you are in removal proceedings. We only charge one fee if you have many family members who have court appearances on the same day before the same judge. If the judge refuses the request to terminate and you have a Form I-485 trial in front of the judge, we charge between $5,000 and $6,000, depending on the intricacy of the issues we’re dealing with.

You’ll need to file a complaint with a juvenile court first. You’ll need to write affidavits and provide proof to prove each of the conditions listed above. After that, you’ll have a trial in front of a judge to get the findings required to submit Form I-360. This procedure can cost anywhere between $7,500 and $9,000, depending on how many people receive the benefit: you and any siblings under the age of 21.

You must then file Form I-360 with USCIS after getting the Juvenile Court Order. We charge between $3,750 and $5,000 on average. USCIS has made this procedure considerably more complicated than it used to be, and getting permission now requires a lot more effort than it used to.

After your Form I-360 has been authorized, you must file Form I-485. In some cases, you may be able to file both simultaneously. For form I-485, we usually charge between $3,750 and $5,000. At this point, we may need to petition for a waiver. We may have to file an I-601 waiver if there is something that makes you ineligible for your permanent residence card. Depending on the intricacy of the problem we’re trying to solve, the cost might range from $1,500 to $3,500.

As you can see, each of these has a price tag attached to it. As a result, my assistants cannot provide you with pricing over the phone. We need knowledge and expertise to figure out what has to be done and how much we should charge for those services.

However, we provide several reductions and payment options for your legal bills. We give you a discount if you pay in full. We offer discounts to returning clients as well. So, if we assist you with all three phases or previous applications, we will give you a discount. The more cash you bring to your consultation, the more likely you will receive a discount on your immigration case.

We treat your case with the same urgency that you do. Your lawsuit will be filed sooner if you pay for it as quickly as possible. We usually require several weeks to file your case once we receive all of the documentation, you’ve answered all of our questions, and you’ve paid in full. The more money you have to start your lawsuit, the smaller your payment plan will be, and your case will be filed sooner.

In summary, beginning October 2, 2020, USCIS will change the pricing of applications. They’re making changes to fee waiver requests. We don’t know what that looks like right now, but if you think you could be qualified for SIJ, we recommend applying as soon as possible to avoid paying more money than necessary.

SIJ Form I-360 is the same form used for a range of different applications. It is critical to follow the instructions and complete them carefully. USCIS has rejected incomplete applications.

We’re Here to Help

Obtaining a green card through SIJ status might be difficult, which is why you should consult with a reliable immigration attorney right once. We at Andres Mejer Law have the necessary skills to represent you in Family Court and USCIS processes.

Give us a call to learn more about your eligibility for a green card through Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and the procedures involved. We can also address any questions you have concerning juvenile immigration, including SIJ procedures in New Jersey.

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