Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which is also known as SIJS, is an immigration status for unmarried minors under the age of 21, living in the United States, who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents. You can apply for SIJS only if you have an order from a state court which places you in the custody of someone else, and that states that you have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent. The order must also state that it is not in your best interest to return to your home country.
Minors who are granted SIJS can receive a green card (with some exceptions). However, they can never file a petition for a green card on behalf of their parents in the future. The SIJS program provides minor children, who are in the custody of someone else, with a path to residency and citizenship.
In order to apply for SIJS, first you must obtain the necessary state court order, if you do not already have one. This means that an adult who is caring for the child must file a petition for custody (if the adult is a parent of the minor) or guardianship (if the adult is not a parent of the minor), in the appropriate court. It is recommended that you hire a family law attorney for this part of the process, and it is very important that your attorney understand SIJS procedures.
If that petition is successful, and the state court order contains the necessary language, then the minor child is now eligible to apply for SIJS through the USCIS. It is recommended that you hire an immigration attorney for this part of the process. It usually takes between six to twelve months to process the application.
One tricky area of the law here is that you can only get the custody or guardianship order from the state court if the minor child is under 18 years of age. This is because the state courts can only grant these orders for minors younger than 18, except in special cases. So far there have not been clear examples of minors between the ages of 18-21 who have been able to get the state court orders, so it is best to act quickly while the minor child is still younger than 18 years of age.
In summary, SIJS can provide minor children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both parents with protection from deportation and a green card. It is a process that requires two separate cases, one at the state court level and later one at the federal level (immigration). It is highly recommended that you hire lawyers who are knowledgeable about SIJS, and it may be in your best interest to consider a law firm that handles both types of cases.