Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
Individuals who come to the United States as children and meet certain requirements may be eligible to obtain a special form of immigration relief that can either lead to lawful permanent residency or provide work authorization and permission to remain in the U.S. without being subject to deportation.
- Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
Unaccompanied children who come to the United States due to abandonment, abuse, or neglect from a parent in their home country may be eligible to petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (“SIJ”) and thereafter apply for permanent residency in the U.S.
The first step is to obtain a legal guardian for the minor through a state court, such as a family or probate court, and obtain a court order finding that:
- the child cannot be reunited with a parent because of either abuse, abandonment, or neglect; and
- it is not in the child’s best interests to return to his or her home country.
Once the guardianship and these findings have been established by the state court, the second step is to file a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). The minor must be under 21 years old at the time of filing the petition, cannot be married at the time of filing or when USCIS makes a decision on the petition, and must be inside of the United States at the time of filing.
After approval of the petition, the minor may be elgible to apply for permanent residency in the United States. However, he or she will not be able to petition for his or her parents after becoming lawful permanent residents, even after the age of 21.
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”)
Certain individuals who came to the United States as children under the age of 16 and are attending high school or have graduated from high school in the U.S. may be eligible for deferred action and permission to work in the U.S. for a period of two years. “Deferred Action” does not grant legal status in the U.S.; however, it gives a person permission to remain in the U.S. without being subject to deportation and with authorization to work lawfully in the U.S.
To be eligible for DACA you must meet the following requirements:
- You were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- You came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
- You have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- You were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of applying for DACA with USCIS;
- You had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
- You are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
- You have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor,or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
- You must also be at least 15 years or older to apply for DACA, unless you are currently in removal proceedings or have a final removal or voluntary departure order for which different rules apply.
Deferred action under the DACA program can be renewed without limitation, even if you are no longer in school, provided you met the requirements for the initial DACA and you:
- Did not depart the United States on or after August 15, 2012, without advance parole, i.e. a permission to travel document;
- Have continuously resided in the United States, up to the present time, since you submitted your most recent request for DACA that was approved; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, and are not a threat to national security or public safety.
DACA does not give you a pathway to permanent residency or lawful immigration status; however, the ability to work lawfully in the U.S. and remain in the U.S. without being subject to deportation is a huge benefit to many people who wish to finish their studies and earn a living in the U.S.
To find out if you or your child qualifies for any of these forms of immigration relief, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.