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What is special immigrant juvenile status?

Some children who arrive in the United States without legal status end up becoming involved in the state child welfare system after allegations of abuse and neglect arise. When this happens, concerns of removal from the country can take hold, threatening to send the child back to a country that they don’t know, where they don’t have support and where it may be dangerous.

Fortunately, there are legal avenues for these children to try to obtain lawful permanent residence. But in order to successfully do so, they have to know the intricacies of immigration law and how to use them to their advantage.

Applying for special immigrant juvenile status

The best way for these kids to protect themselves and obtain permanent residency in the United States is to obtain special immigrant juvenile status. In order to obtain this status and secure permanent residency, they have to meet certain federal requirements, including each of the following:

  • They were either inspected and admitted into the country or they were inspected and paroled.
  • They were physically present in the United States when they filed the special immigrant juvenile status application.
  • They are eligible to obtain a visa, which may be achieved by being classified as a special immigrant juvenile.
  • They are deemed eligible for admissibility into the country.
  • No bars to the adjustment of status apply to them.

There are other requirements, too. For example, the child has to have been adjudicated a child who has been abused or neglected and is in the state’s care to receive services. If the child subsequently reunifies with their parents; however, special immigrant juvenile status is no longer available. Therefore, reunification must be unattainable for some reason in order for a petition for special immigrant juvenile status application to have the strongest chance of succeeding.

Another bar to special immigrant juvenile status would be if the juvenile court’s order finding that reunification isn’t possible or isn’t in the child’s best interest is subsequently reversed.

What if the child is found to be inadmissible

 There may be certain facts that render a child inadmissible into the United States, which then impacts their ability to obtain special immigrant juvenile status. However, these juveniles are often eligible for a number of waivers that can protect their status. So, those who find themselves facing this issue should fully discuss the matter with their attorney to figure out the best path forward.

How does special immigrant juvenile status impact family immigration?

 If a child obtains status through a special immigrant juvenile status application, they’ll be limited in their ability to use that status to sponsor family members for immigration purposes. While the child may sponsor an individual for family-based immigration once a green card is obtained, they can’t utilize the special immigrant juvenile status application itself to seek immigration status for a family member.

It’s also worth noting that those children who obtain special immigrant juvenile status and a green card, and who subsequently naturalize, can’t sponsor a parent for immigration purposes, even if that parent is not the abusive or neglectful parent who led to special immigrant status eligibility. The focus of this program truly is on the child.

Legal help is here when needed

 Children who have entered the child welfare system are dealing with a lot. Their immigration status shouldn’t be another matter for them to worry about when their own safety is on the line. That’s why those who may qualify for special immigrant juvenile status should consider reaching out to an attorney who can help them effectively navigate this complicated area of the immigration laws.

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