Under the Special Immigrant Juvenile classification, a special immigrant is referred to as a child that has suffered from abuse, neglect, abandonment, or other similar issues. Accordingly, children who have suffered from one of these situations are allowed the possibility to seek redress to obtain permanent lawful residence in the United States.
In order for children to qualify as special immigrants, four main conditions must be met. These conditions are as follows:
- The child in question is 21 years of age or under;
- The child is not married;
- The child is already on United States soil; And
- An American state court will not let the child live with their parents or one of their parents because they hurt the child, neglected to take care of them, or else left them without any sort of third-party care.
If these conditions are satisfied, then the child can apply for the Special Immigrant Juvenile classification. As part of the process, applicants can apply for work authorization immediately if they fulfill the age requirements. Moreover, applicants can also apply for lawful permanent residency (what is popularly known as the green card), thereby making them permanent residents of the United States. Later on, once a number of other conditions are satisfied, then lawful permanent residents will also be able to apply to become American citizens by way of naturalization.
However, what exactly is needed from a state court?
In the American legal system, there are two types of courts: state and federal. When it comes to immigration purposes, federal courts have a different purpose from courts on a state level. In fact, federal immigration courts do not get involved in issues related to one’s family. On the contrary, they rely on state courts in order to see if the conditions of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or other similar issues are reached.
Special immigrants need to have an order from a state court to be able to apply for the Special Immigrant Juvenile status. This order needs to state that:
- The child in question is a dependent of the court, for example, in juvenile delinquency or juvenile dependency case; or
- The child in question is in the custody of a state agency or private agency; or else
- The child is in the legal custody of a private person.
In other words, the state court must determine the special immigrant’s custody and, in doing so, give this custody to a state court, a state agency, or a private person.
Lastly, it is also important to note that immigrants who obtain the special immigrant juvenile classification cannot be reunited with both parents since the conditions stipulate that children receiving the classification must have suffered abuse, abandonment, neglect, or similar issues at the hands of their parents. The child may be currently living with one parent, and in some instances, this parent may be the legal custodian or be named as legal guardian. This is also the case if citizenship by naturalization is obtained after the special immigrant obtains permanent residence, meaning that the special immigrant’s parents will not be able to join them on U.S. soil.