SIJ – Special Immigration Juveniles
The purpose of the Special Immigration Juveniles program is to help foreign children in the United States who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected.
To petition for SIJ you must have a state court order that contains certain findings USCIS uses to determine your status. The state court may be called "juvenile court", "family court", "orphan’s court", or some other name, depending on which state it is in. The court must have the authority under state law to decide on the custody and care of children.
Actions State Court Must Take
A state court in the United States must decide:
- To declare that you are a dependent of the court or to legally place you with a state agency, a private agency, or a private person and
- It is not in your best interests to return to your home country (or the country you last lived in) and
- You cannot be reunited with a parent because of ANY of the following:
- Similar reason under state law
To be eligible for SIJ status:
- You must be under 21 years old on the filing date of the Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
- Your state court order must be in effect on the filing date of the Form I-360 and when USCIS makes a decision on your application unless you are “aged out” of the state court’s jurisdiction due to no fault of your own
- You cannot be married, both when you file your application and when USCIS makes a decision on your application
- “Not married” includes a child whose marriage ended because of:
- You must be inside the United States at the time of filing the Form I-360
If you are in the legal custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):
- You must request permission from HHS for the court to legally place you somewhere else
- You do not need to request permission from HHS if the state court does not place you somewhere else.
Once you have met all the eligibility requirements for SIJ status, you need to establish your eligibility for a green card. You may need to file for a waiver in order to get a green card if you have certain ineligibilities (known as “inadmissibilities”).
For example, you might not qualify for a green card if you are (or were):
- A risk to people or property, because of a mental or physical disorder
- A prostitute or pimp
- A drug addict or abuser
- An alien smuggler
However, the law has exceptions. For example, you may receive an exemption if you:
- Now get medical treatment that controls a dangerous mental or physical disorder
- Were forced into prostitution
- Were arrested only once for drugs, and only for 30 grams or less of marijuana
- Had smuggled only your parents or brothers/sisters into the United States
In addition, many of the reasons other green card applicants do not qualify might NOT apply to you as an SIJ, such as if you:
- Cannot financially support yourself
- Are unlawfully present in the United States
- Entered the United States by hiding on a boat, airplane, or other transport (as a stowaway)
- Do not have a proper visa or passport
USCIS can waive most other disqualifying grounds if you show a good reason for a waiver, such as:
- Humanitarian concerns or in the public interest.
In order to request a waiver, file a Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility.