In this tumultuous political climate, we all eagerly wait for the newest developments in the immigration world. Often, we find ourselves watching in disbelief how immigrants—some of the most vulnerable persons—are denied simple due process rights. This is especially true regarding the processing and treatment of children that arrive unaccompanied at our borders. Even if an unaccompanied child is reunited with an extended family member in the U.S., the children are facing an uphill battle in removal proceedings. However, we shouldn’t lose hope. Knowledge is power. This is especially true in the world of immigration law.
Immigrant children who have been either abused, neglected, or abandoned by a parent can qualify for legal permanent residency via a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Visa. The SIJ applicant cannot be married and must be under 21 years of age. However, as a preliminary matter, the SIJ applicant will need a dependency order signed by a Juvenile Court Judge in the county of residence. Unlike the SIJ Visa age restriction, the immigrant child must be under the age of 18 for a Juvenile Judge to exercise jurisdiction over the case. Thus, practically speaking a prospective SIJ applicant can be under 21 years of age but remain ineligible if he/she is 18 or older due to the inability to obtain the prerequisite dependency order. If you feel as if you or someone you know qualifies for SIJ classification, then reach out to us and we can advise you of the next steps in your case.