What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status in NY & NJ?
Children who are undocumented or out of status receive an enormous benefit from being granted Special Immigrant Juvenile status (SIJ). In order for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to allow an adjustment of status, a court with jurisdiction over the child must make findings of fact called “Special Findings.” The Special Findings Order issued by the court is the necessary first step for the child to apply for SIJ status though USCIS. The request for a Special Findings Order is often made in the context of an adoption or guardianship proceeding, although there are other juvenile proceedings providing the court with the opportunity to make a Special Findings determination. After the state court issues the Special Findings Order, a petition for the adjustment of status must be submitted to USCIS.
Rumbold & Seidelman can assist in the adoption and guardianship proceeding, and we can submit the documentation required for the court to issue the Special Findings Order. Once the court issues the Special Findings Order, we can petition USCIS for an adjustment of the child’s immigration status based on the child’s Special Immigrant Juvenile status. We are also happy to work collaboratively with your immigration attorney to obtain the state court Special Findings Order.
The SIJ status program was created by USCIS to help foreign children in the U.S. who have been abused, abandoned or neglected by their parents or guardians. Special Immigrant Juvenile status allows the child to remain in the United States, providing them with the green card they need to live and work permanently in the United States. In many cases, the child will also be adopted by a guardian or relative who is a United States citizen. Keep in mind that obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile status is entirely different from an international adoption.
If you are seeking to obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile status for an undocumented child in the context of a guardianship or adoption proceeding, contact us at 914-779-1050. We will talk with you about your individual situation and the options available to you. Read on for the answers to some questions you may have about SIJ status and adoption.
1. What qualifies a child for Special Immigrant Juvenile status in New York or New Jersey?
The qualifications for Special Immigrant Juvenile status are the same throughout the United States. Adoption requirements will vary based on your state’s laws. A child who’s a non-citizen and has been abandoned, neglected or abused by one or both parents can apply to the court for a finding of SIJ status. The court must also make a specific finding that it’s not in the best interest of the child to return to his or her country of origin. Only a court, which has an independent basis for asserting jurisdiction over the child, has the authority to issue the Special Findings Order. Consequently, these findings are often made in the context of an adoption or guardianship proceeding, although the court has the authority to issue such an order any time a child is before the court (including in the context of a juvenile delinquency proceeding).
The child must also be:
- Less than 21 years of age
- Declared dependent in a juvenile court or legally placed with a state agency, a private agency or a private person.
2. What are the benefits to obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile status?
There are many benefits to adjusting a child’s immigration status. A child who obtains SIJ status is in the position to become a lawful permanent resident. Obtaining SIJ status will waive the child’s:
- Unlawful entry into the U.S.
- Working without authorization in the U.S.
- Status as a public charge
- Certain immigration violations
All states require that adoptive parents go through some sort of screening process to ensure that they are legally qualified to raise a child. Adopting and successfully obtaining SIJ status for the child will allow him or her to lawfully remain in the United States. It will also provide the child with the opportunity to have a stable family and to pursue their education and meaningful employment, something hard to achieve for an undocumented child in the United States.
3. How does a SIJ proceeding/hearing work?
Contact Rumbold & Seidelman today to begin your Special Immigrant Juvenile status proceeding. An experienced lawyer is necessary for this kind of immigration status adjustment and for the related adoption or guardianship proceeding.
For us, the critical first step will be to determine whether the child is a good candidate to receive Special Immigrant Juvenile status. If so, we’ll help you gather the documentation required for the court hearing. We will likely draft an affidavit setting forth the child’s history and providing the court with the legal basis to issue the Special Findings order. Supporting documentation, in the form of affidavits from teachers and letters from doctors or therapists, is often very helpful.
Once the required documentation has been gathered, we will initiate the adoption or guardianship proceedings required for the family court to obtain jurisdiction over the child. This provides the court with the authority to determine whether the child meets the requirements for obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile status in New York or New Jersey. As mentioned above, the court will need to make special findings that the child has been abused, neglected or abandoned by one or both parents. A court hearing is typically required for the court to obtain the information needed to make that determination. If the court finds that the child is entitled to SIJ status, it will issue a Special Findings order setting forth that finding.
Once the Special Findings order is received from the Court, the child can petition USCIS for Special Immigrant Juvenile status. Even though the court issues the Special Findings order, only USCIS has the authority to make the final SIJS declaration. The child will also need to submit a petition requesting an adjustment of their immigration status. If USCIS grants those requests, the child will receive legal permanent residency status at the end of that process.
Obtaining SIJ status can be complicated, which is why you need to work closely with experienced legal counsel from the beginning. At Rumbold & Seidelman we have the experience required to represent you throughout the Family Court and USCIS proceedings.
For more information as to your eligibility to obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile status and on the required procedures, check out the USCIS website ( https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/permanent-workers/employment-based-immigration-fourth-preference-eb-4/special-immigrant-juveniles).
We can also answer any questions you have about juvenile immigration and specifically New York or New Jersey SIJ proceedings if you give us a call at 914-779-1050, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us online.