Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (or “SIJS” or “Juvenile Visa”) allows some children and youth to get lawful permanent residency (a “green card”) when they cannot live with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and it is not in their best interest to return to their home country.

LSC represents youth ages 12 – 21 in San Francisco and Alameda counties in Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases.  We also provide trainings to other legal providers and community members about Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and advocate for policies to benefit SIJS-eligible youth.


Do I qualify for SIJS?

It is best to have an interview with an attorney to decide whether you qualify.  The basic qualifications for SIJS are:

  • You are under 21
  • You are not married
  • You also have an order from a juvenile court confirming that you cannot live with one or both of your parents because of abuse, abandonment, or neglect

An attorney can help you determine if you are eligible.


How do I get an order from the Juvenile Court?

If you already have a juvenile court case and are in foster care or on juvenile probation, you may be able to get the order in that court.  If you do not have a juvenile court case, you may need to seek a legal guardianship if you are not living with your parents.  LSC may be able to help you seek a Legal Guardianship.

If you are living with one parent but have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by your other parent, your parent who you are living with can seek legal custody of you in family court in California and ask the court to make the SIJS findings.  LSC does not do custody cases but we can refer you to other attorneys who do.


After I get an order from the Juvenile Court, how do I apply for SIJS?

Once you get the juvenile court order, your attorney can help you to prepare and file the application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Your attorney will have to do an interview with you to make sure that you qualify for SIJS and that you are eligible for the visa and for permanent residency.

If you have ever been arrested or had interaction with the police (for example if you have been stopped and questioned by the police, or if you might be identified by the police as a gang member) it is important to talk about that with your attorney.


Can I work if I have SIJS?

After you file an application for permanent residency, you can also apply for employment authorization (a work permit).  If you do not have immigration court, you may be able to file this at the same time you file your SIJS application.  If you do have immigration court, you may have to file in two stages, so it may take longer to get your work permit.  Your green card also serves as proof that you are authorized to work in the U.S., so once you get your green card you no longer need a separate work permit.

If you are under 18, you are required to attend school so there are limits to how much you are allowed to work and you must seek a school based work permit from your school (in addition to your immigration work permit) to be able to work.  For a chart of work requirements for different ages, see http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/MinorsSummaryCharts.pdf


Can I travel if I have SIJS?

Once you get your permanent residency approved, you are authorized to travel.  You can travel outside of the U.S. and even return to your home country but it is important not to travel for a long time because permanent residency is only for people who are residing or living in the U.S., so if you are gone too long, immigration may decide that you are actually not living here anymore.  If you are a minor, you may need permission from your parents or legal guardian in order to travel.  You will also need a passport from your home country.

In general, if you travel for more than six months there may be complications and if you travel for more than one year you might lose your permanent residence status.  If you think you will be out of the U.S. for a long time (longer than a month or two) you should talk to an attorney before you go to make sure it won’t affect your lawful permanent residency status.


What do I need to travel once I’m a permanent resident?

In order to travel, you will need to bring your green card and the passport from your home country.

If you are going to a country other than the country that you are from, you will need to see if that country requires citizens of your home country to get a visa (for example, if you are from Mexico and wish to go on a trip to Canada, you will need to see if Canada requires Mexican citizens to seek a tourist visa before entering).  You can often find the information about what visas a country requires for people of different nationalities by searching on the country’s state department or embassy website.

It is also important to be aware of what requirements your home country may have for you to return to the U.S.  We have heard that some countries like Honduras may require permission from parents for youth under age 21 to leave the country and return to the U.S., even if the youth is a permanent resident in the U.S.


How do I get a passport?

In order to get a passport, you should contact the consulate for your home country.  Each country has different requirements for youth to get passports.  Some countries may require that both parents consent to the passport even after the age of 18.  If you want to know what the requirements are for your country, you should ask the consulate or hire an attorney from your country who knows the laws there.

Mexican Consulate, 532 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94105, http://sre.gob.mx/

Salvadoran Consulate, 507 Polk Street, Suite 280 San Francisco CA 94102, http://www.elsalvadorsf.org/

Honduran Consulate, 3550 Wilshire Blvd. Ste. 320 Los Angeles, CA 90010 http://www.hondurasemb.org/consulados.html

Guatemalan Consulate, 544 Golden Gate Ave. Suite 100, San Francisco CA 94102, http://www.minex.gob.gt/


If I have SIJS, can I help family members?

Once you become a permanent resident, if you get married and your spouse is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you may be able to petition for them.  You can also petition for any unmarried children.  You should talk to an attorney before doing this.  If you are in the process of applying for status, be very careful about getting married because it might make you ineligible depending on what status you are applying for.

Once you have been a permanent resident for 5 years, you may be eligible to become a U.S. citizen.  As a U.S. citizen, you can petition for your spouse, children, and siblings.  Although U.S. citizens generally may also petition for parents once the citizens turn 21, if you obtained your legal status through SIJS, you will never be able to petition for your parents.  This is true even if you were only abused, abandoned, or neglected by one parent and still have a good relationship with your other parent.


Are there any things I cannot do as a permanent resident?

Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen can have their immigration status taken away if they don’t follow certain rules.  Even once you get your green card, it is important to still obey the law so that you can maintain your permanent residency.

  • Don’t commit crimes. Even things that might not seem like a really big deal – like shoplifting something inexpensive, driving after you’ve had a drink, using illegal drugs (even marijuana), violating a restraining order, or filing tax returns or other forms with the government that are not accurate – can cause problems for your immigration status.  As a permanent resident, you risk more than a U.S. citizen does by committing crimes – in addition to going to jail, you could be deported!  If you are arrested, make sure that you tell your public defender about your immigration status.
  • Don’t travel outside of the U.S. for a long time.
  • Don’t say that you are a U.S. Citizen and don’t vote.

How can I become a U.S. Citizen?

Generally, to be eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship you must:

  • Be age 18 or older
  • Be a permanent resident for five years
  • Be a person of good moral character
  • Have a basic knowledge of U.S. government
  • Have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S.
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • You should also pay your taxes if you earn enough money to have to file

For more immigration about the naturalization process to become a U.S. Citizen click on the link below: http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/article/M-476.pdf (in English)

 

Some organizations that help with the naturalization process are:

https://sfpathways2citizenship.wordpress.com/

http://ebnatz.org/

http://www.iibayarea.org/work/list-services/

http://www.siren-bayarea.org/citizenship/


Other Resources for the SIJS Visa


How Can LSC Help You?