What Does A SIJ Status Mean?

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJ) is a status that people under age 21 can obtain if they have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by one or both of their parents and other criteria stated in immigration law. It’s similar to the asylum in that you’ll have to prove that you can’t return to any part of your country because of certain bad things that are likely to happen to you.

In the SIJ context, returning to your home country as a minor means that you’ll have to live with your parents. However, if it’s your parents you’re running away from because they’ve abandoned, abused, or neglected you in the past, then it wouldn’t be appropriate for you to be sent back to their home. If you’re at risk of getting deported, make sure to speak with an immigration attorney.

When is SIJ more appropriate than asylum?

Immigrants who are underage often qualify for both asylum and SIJ. In recent years, many minors have tried to enter the US alone and were caught by customs and border protection.  For immigrants like them, becoming an asylee or a special immigrant juvenile are the only two options they have.

Moreover, there has been an increasing number of parents coming to the border with their kids in the past two year. Often, they are running from an abusive partner who is the father of the kids.  In this case, the mom has to decide whether she’s going to:

  • file for asylum for the herself and her kids, or
  • file for asylum for herself and SIJ for the kids.

In most cases, filing for asylum is the mother’s only option, and it’s easier to prove that her kids qualify for SIJ even though the immigration process is more complicated.

Can you apply for a green card application through SIJ?

Having an SIJ status allows you to waive some things that might otherwise keep you from getting a green card. This is similar to what a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) or U-visa does, which can waive the following to let you obtain permanent residency:

  • Working without authorization,
  • Unlawful entry,
  • Public charge,
  • False claims to US Citizenship, and
  • And other immigration violations that might be grounds for inadmissibility in the US.

A special immigrant juvenile status doesn’t waive everything, but it does allow you to apply for a discretionary waiver based on “humanitarian purposes, family unity, or public interest.”  Unlike most waivers, you don’t need to show extreme hardship to get a permanent resident status.  For example, you can waive if you:

  • Are HIV positive,
  • Have a drug addiction, or
  • Have a mental or physical disorder that poses a risk to people or property.

 Hence, you can get your green card through SIJ, just like VAWA or U-visa, but you’ll need to go through more steps in the green card process.

Do I need an immigration attorney for SIJ?

Immigration attorneys can help you determine whether you’re eligible for an SIJ status and discuss other options to consider. Since you’ll have to prove that you qualify as a special immigrant juvenile, getting legal assistance from an experienced immigration attorney who’s knowledgeable in immigration laws increases your chances of getting your application approved.

At Andres Mejer Law, we follow a three-step process when meeting every potential client.

  1. We first determine if you are eligible for a legal status, like SIJ.
  2. If you are eligible, we explore if there anything in your past that could stop you from being approved.
  3. If there is something that could keep you from being approved, we figure out if there is a way to overcome that.

We do this because we won’t want to waste your time or money.  If we can’t help you, we won’t take your money. However, if there’s a way for you to get legal status, then we’ll provide legal help for your immigration journey. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!