What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column, I answer a reader's question about special immigrant juvenile status.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on the immigration history of each person. Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before beginning any process.

This is the column:

I have a 14-year-old nephew who recently entered the United States from Honduras illegally. The border patrol referred him to the immigration court and he has an appointment with the judge in November 2014. My nephew is fleeing abuse from his father in Honduras. I have heard that there is a special program for children who have been abused in their home countries. Is that true?" Jorge C.

Jorge, that's right. There is a special immigrant juvenile status Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) that helps certain minors who are inside the United States obtain permanent residency.

To obtain SIJS, alien children must first be declared a dependent of a U.S. juvenile court, or be placed by a court in the custody of a State agency or department, person or entity designated by a State or juvenile court.

In addition, to be eligible, the court must determine that it is not in the child's best interest to return the child to one or both parents because there is a history of abuse, neglect or abandonment; or to return the child to his or her home country, the country of his or her parents or the last place where he or she lived.

The state or juvenile court must issue its ruling before the child reaches 18 or 21 years of age, depending on the State where the person lives.

If the alien children have been declared dependents of a U.S. juvenile court, they may file the Form I-360 to apply for SIJS with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Requirements to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

● The child must be present within the U.S.

● Being single

● Under 21 years of age at the time of filing the application with USCIS.

Form I-360 must be submitted with several documents, including a copy of the child's birth certificate or other document proving the child's age, and copies of court documents establishing eligibility.

Foreign children must also present the Form I-485 to apply for permanent residence in the U.S. and demonstrate that they are admissible to the country. This application can be filed along with the Form I-360, or after the USCIS has approved the Form I-360, depending on the situation of each case.

If an alien child obtains permanent residence through SIJS, his or her biological or adoptive parents will not be able to receive any immigration benefits based on their relationship. However, the alien child may petition for his or her siblings when the person becomes a U.S. citizen and is over 21 years of age.

It is of utmost importance that every foreign child who wishes to obtain permanent residence in the U.S. be evaluated by an immigration attorney before traveling to the U.S. or beginning any immigration proceedings.

I remind you that notaries, immigration consultants, paper fillers and multi-services are not authorized to give you legal advice.

For more information and immigration tips, read my blog inmigracionhoy.com.

Send your questions to preguntas@consultamigratoria.com. Include detailed information about your situation to better answer your questions.

Nelson A. Castillo, Esq. is an immigration attorney and author of The Green Card: How to obtain permanent residency in the United States.  He is a past President of the Hispanic National Bar Association and current President of the Westlake South Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. Dr. Castillo's office can be reached at (213) 537-VISA (8472).