The United States offers immigration statuses for many different types of individuals, but one of the lesser known options available to applicants specifically helps children in need of a new home.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) allows immigrant children who are in the state juvenile system to obtain lawful permanent resident status. In SIJS cases, children typically meet certain criteria or are unable to reunify with their parents for one of these three reasons:

  • Abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Neglect

Applying for SIJS

SIJS applicants must be under 21 years on the filing date, and those who are seeking SIJS do not work with federal immigration authorities alone.

They must ask a juvenile court judge in the state where they are living to make findings in their case, among which are determinations that reunification with their parents is not viable under state law. SIJS does not define abuse, abandonment or neglect, so the judge uses state laws to determine whether abuse, abandonment or neglect took place. They include their findings in what is called the “SIJS predicate order.”

The judge does not grant a child lawful status – their role is to provide immigration officials with the evidence their need to make their decision. Once a young applicant has the predicate order from the judge, the child can take that to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the USCIS approves, then the applicant can apply for an adjustment of status.

This program is available to give children and any legal guardians who want to care for them in the United States options for gaining permanent lawful residency, which keeps vulnerable children safe.