Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Will Be Harder to Obtain After Recent USCIS "Clarification"

USCIS alters requirements for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, setting a higher bar to qualify.

By , J.D.


Under U.S. immigration law, non-citizen children and some young adults who are living in the U.S. and have been neglected, abused, or abandoned by a parent can obtain protection in the form of a green card (U.S. lawful permanent residence) through "Special Immigrant Juvenile Status" or SIJS. Recent Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) decisions, however, which have been adopted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), seem to narrow the possibilities for who will be found eligible.

(See USCIS Policy Memorandum regarding Matter of D-Y-S-C-, and USCIS Policy Memorandum regarding Matter of E-A-L-O-, and USCIS Policy Memorandum regarding Matter of A-O-C-.)

Put together, these memoranda contain three major changes, or as USCIS terms them, "clarifications."

First, a USCIS grant of SIJS will require evidence that a court has actually stepped in to provide the child with relief from abuse, neglect, or abandonment. A statement that the juvenile is dependent on the court will no longer be sufficient. The idea, obviously, is to make sure that the SIJS procedure isn't being used mainly to obtain an immigration benefit.

Second, USCIS says it will consider qualifying orders from state courts, so long as the applicant met the definition of a juvenile under state law when the order was issued and the court determined the juvenile experienced parental abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar maltreatment.

Third, USCIS says it will no longer require evidence that a state court had the authority to place the child in the custody of an unfit parent in order to make a qualifying determination regarding parental reunification.

Effective Date: October 15, 2019