If you are under 21 you may have an additional method to get legal residence in the U.S, special immigrant juvenile status, but you need to show that you can’t be reunited with one or both of your parents because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. In New Jersey death of a parent can be considered abandonment.
Special Immigrant Juvenile gives you the following:
- Allows you to stay in the United States and eventually get lawful permanent residency (a green card),
- You will get an work authorization,
- After getting your work authorization, you can apply for social security number and a driver’s license.
It is a three part process.
- You need a hearing before a New Jersey Superior Court Judge who makes Special Findings
- You have to submit those Special Findings to immigration to then get Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Visa
- You then apply for your green card.
If you don’t get the Special Findings of a New Jersey Superior Court Judge, you can’t achieve Special Immigrant Juvenile Status or get your green card. It is a complicated process, because it isn’t well known. Federal law doesn’t have juvenile courts. So Congress has given State Court Judges the authority to make specific factual findings. The challenge is in educating the Judge about the process and their authority. Depending on where in New Jersey you live, the Jude may have only limited experience with this type of hearing. That is where an experienced immigration attorney can make all the difference.
The Judge’s Finding must have the following:
- You are under 21. This can be proven with a birth certificate, passport, or other official government issued identity document. You can be a parent with your own children and still qualify. Immigration can’t deny your application based on your age as long you were under 21 and not married when you applied for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. That means that you must already have your Special Findings and apply for the second stage before your 21st birthday or marriage.
- You are not married,
- Declared dependent on a juvenile court or placed by the court in a custody of someone,
- Reunification with one or both of your parents is not possible because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Remember, that in New Jersey we can argue that death of a parent constitutes abandonment. The court’s order, or a social worker’s statement, must provide reference to facts supporting the finding, and
- It isn’t in your best interest to be returned to your home country. This can be proven through your testimony, an analysis of your home in your home country, or evidence showing there is no appropriate family in your home country