Boston Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Lawyer

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJ) is an immigration benefit and path to a green card for children who are found to be abused, neglected, or abandoned. Created by Congress in 1990, this type of immigration relief helps certain vulnerable children for whom it may not be in their best interest to return to their home country. Children with SIJ status may apply for legal permanent residency before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if not in removal proceedings, or before the Immigration Court if in removal proceedings with the help of an immigration lawyer. Our Boston special immigrant juvenile status lawyer could help you through this process and address any concerns you may have.

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Who qualifies for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status?

The Immigration and Nationality Act section 101(a)(27)(J) establishes the definition of a Special Immigrant Juvenile. A “child” who has been abused, neglected, or abandoned may apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. To qualify for SIJ, you must:

  • be in the United States;
  • be under the age of 21 at the time of filing;
  • be unmarried; and
  • have a juvenile court’s order with three (3) specific findings:
    • the child is declared dependent by a juvenile court in the U.S.;
    • reunification with one or both of the child’s parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis; and
    • it is in the child’s best interest that they not be returned to their country or their parents’ country of nationality or last habitual residence.

A child eligible for SIJ can include, for example, someone who:

  • is in federal custody in the United States without parents or legal guardians;
  • is in foster care (i.e., the welfare system); or
  • is in the court-ordered custody of a state agency (e.g., Department of Children and Families) or an individual (e.g., a family member or family friend, such as an aunt or grandparent, who has adopted the child or has been declared a guardian to the child).

A juvenile court judge must find that a child should not be returned to their country of origin or his/her parents’ country of origin for a substantial reason. The absence of any relatives living in their home country or the inadequate conditions of a relative’s home in that country may favor the petition for special findings. A Boston attorney could determine if a child is eligible for special immigrant juvenile status.

Time Sensitive Eligibility

The eligibility for SIJ is very specific and time-sensitive. Contact our immigration lawyers as soon as possible to determine whether you or someone you know may qualify for this immigration benefit.

Currently, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Probate and Family Courts have jurisdiction over children 18 years old and younger. Therefore, you must obtain the court order with the special findings before turning 18 years old to qualify for SIJ. In other states, courts have jurisdiction beyond the child’s 18th birthday – until their 21st birthday.

As long as a child’s dependency order has not been vacated, terminated or ended, the child can adjust their SIJ status to become a legal permanent resident (i.e., a green card holder) as long as they file the adjustment application prior to reaching 21 years of age.

Defining “Abuse, Neglect, Abandonment, or Similar Grounds”?

State laws define what abuse, neglect, and abandonment are. In 2008, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”) amended the original statute and broadened eligibility for SIJ by including “similar grounds” to abuse, neglect, and abandonment.

In Massachusetts, a Probate and Family judge must determine if a child has been subject to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar conditions based on the Commonwealth’s laws.

Remember: The abuse, neglect, or abandonment need not have occurred within the U.S. for the child to qualify for SIJ. You may seek SIJ for the abuse, neglect, or abandonment you experienced while outside of the U.S.  A child need not be separated from both parents to be eligible for SIJ. In fact, a child may even reside with one parent when applying for special immigrant juvenile status. For example, if you are living in the U.S. with your mother, you may qualify for SIJ if you can prove that your father abused you or abandoned you whether here in the U.S. or outside of the U.S.A lawyer in Boston could determine whether the mistreatment that an immigrant child experienced qualifies them for SIJ status.


What is the Process for Obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status in Boston?

To obtain SIJ, there are two major steps before two separate courts:

Step 1: Get a court order from a juvenile court. In Massachusetts, a hearing before the Probate and Family Court in the county where you live will be necessary to seek the special findings. A judge must order special findings (explained above).

Once these findings are made, your biological or prior adoptive parent(s) will not be eligible to receive immigration benefits through you.

Step 2: Apply to USCIS for SIJ. You must submit Form I-360 as well as the special order from the juvenile court. You must also submit proof of their age (e.g., a birth certificate, a passport biography page with the date of birth clearly legible, an identification card such as a cédula, etc.). USCIS must adjudicate an SIJ petition within 180 days.

If you are not in Immigration Court proceedings, then you may simultaneously apply for adjustment of status using Form I-485. However, if you have a hearing before the Immigration Court, then you must await USCIS’s decision on the SIJ application before seeking a green card before the Immigration Judge.

Applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is not an easy process, and therefore, requires an experienced Boston attorney, who knows how to navigate the complex legal system and advocate for you and your loved ones.

Benefits of Receiving SIJ Status?

A lawyer in Boston could explain all of the benefits that SIJ status could have for an inidividual. Some of these benefits include:

  • SIJ waives numerous types of inadmissibility issues, including unlawful entry, working without authorization, falsely claiming U.S. citizenship, etc.
    • So even if you have entered the United States without inspection (i.e., undocumented), you may still qualify to become a green card holder.
  • If you are granted SIJ, you can adjust your immigration status and become a green card holder.
    • You will also be able to apply for other benefits such as a Social Security Card and a driver’s license.
  • As a green card holder, you will be on the path to obtaining a U.S. citizenship.

Speak with a Boston SIJ Status Attorney

If you or someone you know is under the age of 21 and is having immigration troubles, contact Goldstein Immigration Lawyers to help you. Attorney Goldstein has extensive years of experience guiding countless families through this process. Our Boston special immigrant juvenile status lawyers understand what you are going through and they are eager to help. Call us today to schedule a consultation.