This program is for children who have been neglected, abused, or mistreated in any way by one or both parents.
Is There A Minimum Age A Child Must Be To Be Eligible To Apply For SIJ?
In Texas, there are 2 steps for a child to be eligible to apply for their Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, the first step is that we have to go to the family court in the county where the child resides.
The deadline in Texas is when that child turns 18 years of age, so we have to do the whole process in family court before they turn 18.
There is no deadline as is the case with USCIS, there are different rules that control who can apply with USCIS.
The most important requirement is to complete everything with the family court before turning 18 years of age and submit everything to immigration before turning 21 years of age.
What Is The SIJ Visa Application Process Like?
Before starting this type of process, we have to evaluate if the child qualifies for the program, we have to confirm that the child entered the United States with or without a Visa, it doesn’t matter.
We also need a sponsor, which is another adult who can be a family member, a friend, or a distant relative, sometimes it is a pastor or a teacher who is available to help the child, after that we file a petition with the family court and we usually have a hearing so we can talk about the abuse, mistreatment or neglect of the young person.
If the judge agrees that it’s not a good idea for the child to return to their home country for any reason, for example, if there are gangs, if there is poverty, or if there is civil war, the judge signs the petition in family court and we deliver the judge’s order to the immigration agency.
Why Do Some Countries Have A Waiting List For SIJ Applications?
The Federal Government gives us a limit of Visas available each year, when there are more applicants than Visas available a time or waiting list is formed.
For countries from which we have many immigrants in the United States, Visas will never be immediately available because there are always many applicants, this applies also to family petitions, Juvenile Visas, and other Work Visas.
With the Juvenile Visa, we have a limit of Visas available for Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala as well as India, China, and the Philippines.
Currently, in 2022 we have a very long backlog of people who are applying for these programs from Mexico and Central America.
In Mexico they are still processing cases turned over with immigration in April 2020, and for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, they are still processing cases turned over in May 2017, the backlog is almost 5 years for these children.
Can A Young Person Ask For A Lawyer Alone?
No, unfortunately, the only exception is for children who are in Foster Care, sometimes no sponsor or relative can take care of the child, but the State can be their sponsor.
This is because a requirement for the Juvenile Visa that the family court has determined is that the child is under the control of the State or a sponsor, so they cannot hire an attorney on their own.
Can My Undocumented Family Member Be My Sponsor?
The status of the sponsor does not matter, if it is a very distant relative it does not matter, the person doesn’t need to have a Green Card, Visa, or U.S. citizenship to be a sponsor.
Any adult, friend, neighbor, or co-worker who is available to participate in the family court process can be a sponsor, there is no requirement that the child must live with the sponsor.
In the State of Texas, the sponsor has the responsibility to care for the child and be available in case of emergency, but there is no requirement that they must be related, no requirement that they must live together.
It’s something that can be done by any adult who is available and knows the young person, we cannot look for sponsors on the internet, it can be anyone who can help.
Will My Child Ever Be Allowed To Return To Their Country Of Birth If Granted SIJ?
The Juvenile Visa is different from the refugee status or political asylum applicant, it is a requirement to prove that it’s not a good idea for the child to return to their country of origin to live permanently here in the United States, but there is no requirement or restriction of not being able to return to that country for vacations, to visit family members.
In any type of case, it’s always important to consult with an attorney before leaving the U.S., but in general, children who have a Juvenile Visa cannot travel until they receive permanent residency.
When they have permanent residency it is safer to travel outside the United States and also to return to their home country solely for visitation.
If A Child Is A Citizen Because Of Their SIJ Can They Petition Their Parents?
Unfortunately, that is a restriction, the parent who has abused the child will never be able to benefit from the petition and the young person.
The child may never make or deliver a family petition for the sponsor, or the parent who has done the abuse.
Can They Apply For Juvenile Asylum If The Father Is Deceased?
In general, the death of a parent is not sufficient grounds to be eligible for this Visa because it’s not an intentional abandonment, it’s a bereavement, but it’s not considered abuse or neglect.
There are special laws in family court on this issue, depending on the specific details of the case, sometimes it is possible if there was abandonment or abuse before the death of the father, but the death of the father alone is not enough.
It’s always worthwhile to investigate and evaluate if there are other options to see if we can move forward with the Juvenile Visa.
Does It Qualify If A Parent Is Abusive To Their Partner?
If the youngster in his childhood was an eyewitness to domestic violence between the parents, it qualifies as child abuse under U.S. law.
It doesn’t have to be abused directly to the youth to be eligible, so it is worth consulting to find out the details of your specific case, as therein lies the history of your future case.
It doesn’t have to be very serious abuse either, it could be the case where the father used bad language or never paid child support, left home, and abandoned the family.
It is important to remember as in the VAWA program or the U Visa program that the definition of abuse or mistreatment under the family court laws, and also in the immigration agency, is something very general, it does not have to be strictly a situation with the police or in the hospital, just having a history that contains some emotional abuse or verbal abuse, is enough to want to look at the options in your case.
Can A Child Apply For Asylum If Both Parents Are In The U.S.?
Yes, this entire proceeding takes place in family court which is a civil court, so there is no requirement to charge one or both parents with criminal charges.
There is no need to involve the police or prosecutors or anyone else in the proceedings, everything is confidential with the family court.
The family court will also not share information about that immigration proceeding with ICE, immigration, or law enforcement.
Juvenile Asylum Law Updates
On March 8, immigration announced to the immigrant community that they are going to approve deferred action for deferred action automatically to all young people who want to obtain their Juvenile Visa and it has been approved.
It is important to remember that there is currently a waiting list of approximately 3 years for young people coming from Mexico, and there is a waiting list of approximately 5 years for young people from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Because immigration announced this new initiative, this is telling us that they are going to approve deferred action for these young people, and it is not fair that they are waiting for their work permit, their social security, and all their documents for 3, 4 or 5 years.
This does not apply to young people who have a pending Juvenile Visa case, but as soon as the petition is approved and they are in line for permanent residency, immigration will authorize deferred action for 4 years.
From Lincoln-Goldfinch Law we hope that these young people don’t need to renew it because it is a long time, we are talking about 4 years of waiting.
In case you have additional questions about the Youth Visa, deferred action, or your specific case, you can contact us at (855) 502-0555. After a short 10 minute evaluation of your case over the phone we will let you know what options you have. You can also follow us on our social networks so you won’t miss our weekly broadcasts via Facebook, YouTube & Twitch.