Abandoned Immigrant Children | Eatontown NJ | Andres Mejer

Obtaining permanent residency for abandoned New Jersey children is possible!

Navigating the complex United States immigration law system as an adult can be difficult and intimidating.  For children who are present in the U.S. without any valid immigration status, figuring out how to legally remain in the country may seem impossible.

Millions of unauthorized immigrant children in the United States are eligible for deferral of deportation under the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program.  We have discussed that program in greater detail in other articles.  DACA, however, only provides temporary relief from deportation and does not contain a path to obtain permanent residency or any other legal immigration status.  This is a major drawback of DACA.

The most vulnerable of child unauthorized immigrants, however, may have a straightforward path to legal status.  For those who have been abandoned, neglected, or abused, U.S. immigration law contains a provision for granting legal permanent residency (i.e. a “green card”).  Obtaining permanent residency for abandoned New Jersey children is possible.

What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (“SIJ”) is a classification given to certain unauthorized immigrant children.  Once the status is granted, the child may apply for legal permanent residency despite having entered the U.S. illegally, being unlawfully present in the U.S., or being inadmissible to the U.S. and otherwise barred from applying for permanent residency.  Please note, however, that a separate waiver may need to be filed to cover grounds of inadmissibility.  That is discussed in greater detail below. 

Who Qualifies for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

To qualify for SIJ, the child must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Be unmarried and under the age of 21 at the time the petition is filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
  2. Be physically present in the United States; 
  3. Have a qualifying U.S. juvenile court order;
  4. Must have been abandoned, neglected or abused by one or both parents; and
  5. It must not be in the child’s best interest to return to their home country

The key to obtaining SIJ status is that the child must have been abandoned, neglected, or abused by one or both parents.  These children may be from a variety of groups:  children without parents or guardians who are in federal custody, children in the state welfare system, and children who are under court-ordered custody agreements (either wards of a state agency or individual custody). 

The State Court Order

To succeed in being classified as a SIJ, the child must submit an order from a state court.  Each of the states in the U.S. has different laws and procedures for obtaining the court order.  Those seeking SIJ status should understand the laws in the particular state in which they live.  But, essentially, the state court must decide all of the following:

  1. That the juvenile is a dependent of the court or has been legally placed with a state agency or individual;
  2. It is not in the juvenile’s best interest to return to his or her home country or the last country in which the juvenile lived before entering the U.S.; and
  3. The juvenile cannot be reunited with a parent because of one of the following reasons:
    • Abandonment
    • Abuse
    • Neglect
    • Similar reason

The issue of the juvenile’s abandonment or neglect may be brought by police, welfare authorities, family members, or the child’s non-abusive parent.  Please note that the state court order must be in effect at the time the petition is filed with the USCIS.  However, if the order is not valid simply because the juvenile became too old to continue to fall under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, the petition may still be approved. 

The Special Immigrant Juvenile Petition and the Green Card Application

Petitioners for SIJ status must file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), of Special Immigrant.  The petition must be filed with the state court order discussed above.  It must also include birth certificates, immigration documents, and any other relevant supporting documentation. 

Petitioners for SIJ status may file the I-360 alone or may concurrently file it with Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status to Permanent Residency.  Either way, there may be some time between approval of the SIJ petition and approval of the application for permanent residency.  This is because of annual numerical limitations established by Congress.  In general, however, priority dates for the SIJ category are current for most countries.  SIJ falls in the EB-4 category on the visa bulletin. 

If the SIJ is inadmissible to the U.S., he or she should also include an inadmissibility waiver (Form I-601).  Further, while the permanent residency application is pending, the SIJ may be issued an employment authorization card.  For this, Form I-765 should be filed.  An application to waive the application fees (Form I-912) may be included as well.

Limitations on Sponsorship for Special Immigrant Juveniles

When the permanent residency petition is approved, SIJs receive the rights and benefits of other legal permanent residents with one big exception: Special Immigrant Juveniles cannot sponsor relatives in the same way as other legal permanent residents can. 

Specifically, SIJs may not sponsor siblings while they are permanent residents (they can sponsor brothers and sisters after they naturalize and become U.S. citizens) and they may never sponsor their parents (even the non-abusive one and even after they become citizens).  In sum, these permanent residents are seen as orphans in the eyes of the law and, as such, their family sponsorship privileges are substantially restricted.

There are many complicated issues in the Special Immigrant Juvenile process.  Both state courts and federal immigration agencies are involved.  Anyone seeking these immigration benefits needs to ensure that he or she is protected and secure throughout the process.  This is where an experienced immigration attorney is invaluable.  As such, if you are contemplating pursuing a green card through the SIJ program or if you are a child advocate, you should seek the advice and assistance of competent legal counsel. 

Share This Post!

Related Posts

Call Us Today!

New Jersey Immigration Attorney

We're here 24/7.
Call Now!

Eatontown, NJ


286 RT 35
Unit D
Eatontown, NJ 07724


Lakewood, NJ


212 2nd Street
Suite 104
Lakewood, NJ 08701


Newark, NJ


50 Park Place
Suite #1101
Newark, NJ 07102


Edison, NJ


1929 NJ-27
Edison, NJ 08817


1065 US-22 Suite 2B
Bridgewater Township, NJ 08807


Freehold, NJ


36 W Main St, Suite 302,
Freehold, NJ 07728


Copyright 2022 Provencher and Flatt, LLP - All Rights Reserved. Powered by Advantage Attorney Marketing & Cloud Solutions

Free Deportation Risk Assessment

Where you ever caught at by immigration and returned to your country? (¿Dónde alguna vez te pilló inmigrando y regresaste a tu país?)*

Have you ever been arrested for any reason? (¿Alguna vez te han arrestado por alguna razón?)*

How many times have been arrested? (¿Cuántas veces han sido arrestados?)*

Were you arrested for any of the following reasons? (Check all that apply) (¿Te arrestaron por alguna de las siguientes razones?)

Have you ever filed for an immigration benefit and been denied? (¿Alguna vez ha presentado un beneficio de inmigración y se le ha negado?)*

Have you entered the US illegally more than once after 1997? (¿Ha entrado ilegalmente en los Estados Unidos más de una vez después de 1997?)*

Do you owe back child support? (¿Debes manutención infantil?)*

Arrested in New Jersey

Request Your Free Copy

Solicite su copia gratuita

Immigration Book

Request Your Free Copy

Solicite su copia gratuita

Immigration Attorney

Request Your Free Copy

Solicite su copia gratuita

Find Out Immediately If You Qualify for Legal Status


Your privacy is important to us. We will keep the information you provide strictly confidential. We only use your information to determine if you may be eligible for immigration benefits in the United States. The information we provide should not be construed as legal advice and submission of this form does not create an attorney/client relationship.

Ingrese la siguiente información para aceptar los términos y condiciones.

Enter the following information to accept the terms and conditions.

Start Here!

Información Personal / Personal Information


Idioma Preferido*

Preferred Language

Fecha Nacimiento*

Date of Birth

Pais de Nacimiento*

Country of Birth

Entradas a las EEUU / Entries into the US


Fecha Entrada*

Date of Entry

Entrada Legal*

Did you enter legally?



¿Tiene usted padres, conyuge o hijos mayores de 21 anos,Que ha estado o esta en las fuerzas armadas Americanas?*

Do you have a parent, spouse, or child over 21 who is or was in the US military?

¿Tiene usted padres,conyuge o hijos mayores de 21 anos, ciudadanos Americanos o residentes permanentes?*

Do you have a parent, spouse, or child over 21 who is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident?

¿Ha tenido usted, sus padres o sus abuelos un estado legal en los EEUU?*

Did you, your parents, or your grandparents ever have legal status in the U.S.?

¿Esta considerando matrimonio con us ciudadano Americano o residente permanente? ( mismo sexo incluido)*

Are you considering marriage to a US citizen or green card holder (same-sex marriage included)?



¿Alguien ha peticionado a su favor por motivos de inmigración?*

Has anyone ever filed an immigration petition for you before?

¿Ha sido usted deportado o esta usted en procedimiento de deportación ahora?*

Have you ever been deported or are you in deportation proceedings now?

Ha sido abusado por sus padres, conyuge o hijo mayor de edad?*

Has your parent, spouse, or adult child been abusive to you?

¿Si es asi, fue previo a Abril 30 del 2001?*

If so, was it before April 30, 2001?



¿Fue usted, conyuge, sus padres, pareja o sus hijos victimas de de un crimen violento en los EEUU?*

Were you, your parents, siblings, spouse, partner, or children a victim of a violent crime in the US?

¿Es usted menor de 21 años y soltero?*

Are you under 21 and not married?

¿Tiene usted un padre, conyuge o hijo menor de 15 anos con requerimientos especiales médicos (dificultades de estudio, alergias severas, asma u otra condición medica severa)?*

Do you have a parent, spouse, or child under 15 with medical or special needs (learning disability, severe allergies or asthma, or other serious medical condition)?

¿Fue usted maltratado, abusado o abandonado por sus padres?*

Did your parents mistreat, abuse, or abandon you?



¿Tenia usted 30 anos o menos en Junio, 15, 2012?*

Were you 30 years or under on June 15, 2012?

¿Tenía usted 15 años o menos en su primera entrada en los EEUU?*

Were you 15 years old or younger on your first entry into the US?

Click below now to see if you qualify!

¡Haga clic abajo ahora para ver si califica!

New Jersey Immigration Attorney

Get Instant Access

Enter your name and email address below to get instant access.

New Jersey Immigration Attorney

¡Obtenga acceso instantáneo ahora!

Ingrese su nombre y dirección de correo electrónico a continuación