Special Immigrant Juvenile Status in California law

On Behalf of | Apr 24, 2024 | Immigration |

Undocumented children in the United States face a plethora of challenges, including but not limited to the risk of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. As a vulnerable group, these children require protection, which is where the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status comes into play.

Enshrined in California law, SIJS provides a viable pathway for undocumented children who have undergone mistreatment to obtain legal status in the country.

Who qualifies for SIJS?

According to California law, to qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a youth must meet the following criteria:

  • Under 21 years old
  • Unmarried
  • In the United States and undocumented
  • Separated from or hurt by one or both of your parents

Juveniles who receive SIJS can then apply for lawful permanent residency (a green card) as well as work authorization permits.

Start a case in a state court

To initiate the SIJS process, one must file a case in a state superior court (also known as a trial court). There are 58 of these courts in California. It is possible to file the case independently, with the assistance of a lawyer or during an ongoing case involving one’s parents.

Ask the judge for the findings and obtain the SIJS court order

Individuals will need to request the state court to make three findings before it can issue the SIJ order:

  1. The child is a dependent of the court or in legal custody of a person or agency
  2. The child cannot be reunited with a parent
  3. It is not in the child’s best interest to return to their country

After the court hearing, if the judge grants the necessary requests, the lawyer or the court will prepare the court order. The individual can then use the court order to file an SIJ petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

A more secure future

The process of obtaining SIJS in California can be complex and challenging, especially for undocumented children who have experienced mistreatment. It requires initiating a case in a state court, requesting the court to make certain findings, and obtaining an SIJ court order, which can then be used to file an SIJ petition with the USCIS.

Despite the challenges, SIJS offers a much-needed pathway for vulnerable immigrant children to obtain legal status in the US, which can provide them with access to education, healthcare and other opportunities that may not have been available to them otherwise. With the right support and guidance, these children can have hope for a safer and more secure future.