Certain children are eligible able to petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An approved petition can lead to eligibility to file for permanent resident status (become a Lawful Permanent Resident), if a visa is available. Currently, there is a wait of a few years for a child with approved SIJS to apply for permanent resident status.
In order to successfully petition for SIJS, one parent or a guardian must file a custody order in a local or state court and request that the judge make three findings:
- The child was abandoned, neglected, or abused under state law by one or both parents.
- The child cannot be reunified with that parent or both parents.
- It is in the best interest of the child to not be returned to their country of origin.
In North Carolina and South Carolina, 18 years of age is the cutoff date to obtain custody orders. If the child is 17 years of age, and eligible for this benefit, it is critically important and urgent that an attorney be hired immediately to obtain the custody order because it takes many months to obtain a custody order. For children residing in North Carolina, the Lopez Law Firm has been hired to represent children and their parents/guardians in Charlotte at the local and state court level to obtain these custody orders. For children residing in South Carolina, custody cases are referred to attorneys that understand what is required.
It is important to consult with an immigration attorney to determine whether this option is available for a child.