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Unaccompanied Minors and Special Immigration Juvenile Status (SIJS)
Fight for the Best Interest of Unaccompanied Minors in Immigration Law
In the United States, any individual under the age of 18 without a legal guardian, responsible adult, or legal status in the country is considered an “unaccompanied minor”. If the minor's status resides within a court, state, or agency due to abuse, negligence, or abandonment, the minor is considered a “Special Immigration Juvenile" (or SIJ). In either case, if the right conditions are met then the child in question could be eligible for a green card and/or a legal residency status.
If you are a minor, are in charge of a minor, or know of a minor that fits these categories it is important to seek out legal assistance immediately. At the Kapoor Law Firm, our attorney handles each case with compassion and will create a unique legal strategy while guiding you through the entire immigration process.
What is Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status?
If a child with an immigration status is abused, neglected, or abandoned in the United States they could be granted “Special Immigrant Juvenile” (SIJ) status. This becomes a method through which children from foreign countries who have been brought to the U.S. in terrible circumstances can get lawful permanent residency. To qualify for this special designation the individual in question must be: under 21 at the time the SIJ is filed, be physically located in the U.S., be unmarried, be identified by the courts as a victim of abuse, returning to their country of origin is not in their best interest, and be cleared by the Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Unaccompanied Minors and Immigration Law
If a minor arrives in the U.S. without a responsible adult or a legal guardian, they are given “unaccompanied minor” status by the Department of Immigration. Regardless of their legal status, the unaccompanied minor has rights upon that must be protected.
Unaccompanied Minors' Immigration Rights Include:
- Family Reunification
Typically, if a child’s family can be identified, they will sent back to their country of origin and be returned to their family.
Petitioning for SIJ Classification through Form I-360
- Complete and file Form I-360
- Provide proof of your age along with a certified English translation, if applicable:
- Birth certificate
- Official document verifying your identity issued by a foreign government (example: cartilla, cedula, etc.) or other documents that satisfactorily establish your age
- Valid juvenile court order(s)
- Written consent from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that changes your status of custody or placement
- If you have an immigration attorney, complete and file Form G-28.
It is USCIS that makes decisions on SIJ petitions. It typically takes about 6 months from the filing date
Common Immigration Challenges for Unaccompanied Minors
- Unaccompanied minors do not have a right to counsel appointed by the court. If they must appear in court they typically do not have legal representation unless they are able to afford an attorney or find one who is willing to provide counsel pro bono.
- There are guidelines on how unaccompanied minor immigrants should be treated while in Customs and Border Protect (CBP), but there are no legally binding regulations to protect the children before being transferred to an Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
- Deportation proceedings for unaccompanied minors is especially confusing. When a child is released from an ORR to a sponsor or foster care, the child is responsible for submitting paperwork to notify the immigration court that they have been moved. It is also their responsibility to file a formal motion to change venue for their deportation proceedings if the location they moved to is under the jurisdiction of a different court. Failure to do this may result in a failure to appear in court. The child is responsible for this no matter what their age is or whether or not they have an attorney.