Special Immigrant Juveniles

Special immigrant juvenile status is a federal immigration remedy for certain undocumented children in the United States for whom family reunification with one or both parents is not viable due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a similar basis under state law, and for whom it would not be in their best interests to return to their home country.

Congress tasked the state court with jurisdiction over juveniles—in Virginia, typically the juvenile and domestic relations (JDR) court—with making these factual findings. The predicate order from the JDR court containing these findings is then filed along with other evidence with USCIS to support the child’s application for permanent status. While the juvenile court’s order does not confer immigration status on the child, without this SIJS order the child cannot apply for status to USCIS, the benefits-­granting agency that ultimately decides the child’s eligibility for SIJS.

How long will it take for my child’s case to process?

SIJ cases are adjudicated in the state court and can vary in processing time depending on the jurisdiction. Typically, the state court process takes from six to 12 months depending on jurisdictional issues. After the state court issues the predicate order, USCIS takes approximately six months to adjudicate the case.

Do I have to go to court?

You will need to attend at least two hearings in most jurisdictions: a pre-trial hearing and a full hearing to determine whether the court can enter the predicate SIJ order.

If my child receives SIJ status, can they apply for me?

No. SIJ status is only available to minors and confers no legal benefits to the parent or custodian. However, be sure to talk to a Poarch Law attorney to see whether you may qualify for some other form of relief.

My child is in removal proceedings. Can they still apply for SIJS?

Yes. In fact, approval of SIJS typically results in the termination of removal proceedings against the juvenile.

Why do I need an attorney?

Filing a SIJ petition is a meticulous process that requires not only knowledge of state courts, but experience with SIJS before USCIS. Moreover, children should be screened for SIJS before seeking the state court’s order granting a relative custody over a minor who is a foreign national.

Working with Poarch Law on SIJS Cases

Poarch Law has extensive expertise preparing SIJS cases for the benefit of children and adolescents in state care as well as in private custody arrangements. Christine Lockhart Poarch writes and speaks on SIJS nationally, and our attorneys work carefully with the local courts and the federal agencies to assure proper processing from initial juvenile court filing through green card. Poarch Law consults on these cases nationally as to the USCIS process, but only engages in state court representation in states where the attorney is licensed (Virginia and Texas). In other states, Poarch Law works closely with a local licensed attorney.