Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is one of the classifications available for undocumented immigrants seeking to regularize their immigration status. In order to qualify for this status, the immigrants in question must be under the age of 21, and they must also have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents (or parent). By way of this classification, immigrants who meet all of the criteria for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) can obtain permanent residence in the United States.
The requirements that the immigrant in question must meet to obtain SIJS are:
- They must be under 21 years of age;
- They mustn’t be married;
- They must be declared to be dependent in a juvenile court, with the Family Court taking jurisdiction over a petition that addresses the needs of the applicant for SIJS;
- Reunification with the immigrant’s parents is no longer possible owing to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or other issues of a similar nature; And
- It is not in the immigrant’s best interests to return to their country of origin or where they last habitually resided.
It is important to note that the SIJS statute explicitly states that abuse, abandonment or neglect must be determined factually. However, the statute does not define these terms, so state law must be consulted for precise definitions to be obtained. Further to this, it is also observed that the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008 also provides another category together with abuse, abandonment or neglect, which is a “similar basis under state law”. This means that if a child has not been abused, abandoned or neglected, they might still qualify for SIJS if, for example, the parents cannot care for their child if the child has certain problems, including but not limited to issues related to mental health.
Are there any restrictions on applicants who meet all of the criteria?
The simple answer to this question is yes. In fact, if the applications have committed a crime, then their application might be rendered inadmissible. This is especially true if the applicants have been convicted of adult offenses like drug trafficking, rape, or murder. Minors usually are not tried and charged as adults; however, when it comes to certain crimes such as homicide, certain states allow children of any age to be tried as adults.
On the other hand, crimes of juvenile delinquency are not considered to count as convictions for immigration purposes. With that being said, some juvenile delinquency crimes might also come with inadmissibility grounds attached, meaning that the applicant will need a waiver if they have been convicted of such a crime.
Lastly, it is also important to note that applicants might also be inadmissible for SIJS if authorities have “reason to believe” that they have engaged in drug trafficking or aided and abetted a drug trafficker. In this case, a conviction is unnecessary, as reasonable suspicion (or evidence showing drug offences) might result in the potential applicants being permanently barred from obtaining SIJS. In other words, charges and suspicions relating to drug offences cannot be waived.