Why SIJS Cases Start In State Courts

In previous posts, we explained what Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is, who is eligible for it, and the process for obtaining it. If you missed it, you can read it here. In short, it is a process that involves a juvenile court on the state level. This is somewhat unique because the path to immigration typically goes through a federal court. In an SIJS case, a juvenile court decides that reuniting a child (who is a non-citizen) with one or both parents is not in their best. There could be instances of neglect, abuse, or abandonment. After the state court determines the child’s eligibility for SIJS, a petition can be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Though we summed that up quickly, it is essential to note that it is a lengthy process. It could take three to four years before a child can become a legal permanent resident (LPR) and hold a green card. Though we have gone over what SIJS is and how long it could last, it is paramount that we address a common concern and question that people have with the process: Who supports and takes care of the child?

Becoming a Jurisdiction of the State

Remember, the first step of this process does not involve the USCIS, which will ultimately be responsible for allowing the child to become an LPR. Before it can escalate to that level, you must go through a state juvenile court proceeding. There are several reasons for this: 

  • The child formally enters into the jurisdiction of the state juvenile court system.
  • To obtain an SIJS predicate order.
  • To make a dependency determination. 
  • To make a custody determination. 

What This May Look Like 

It is important to note that the child may already be in the state’s custody before the process begins. This means the child has already taken one of the many steps toward becoming a legal permanent resident, and they will not have to go through this portion again. For instance, consider a child who has already been placed in the state’s foster care system. Child protective workers are familiar with SIJS and may advocate or assist the child because of it. (I.e., they may contact appropriate legal counsel to help the child.)

Not every child has to be in the state’s foster care system to be eligible. Though they differ vastly in terms of process and legal meaning, someone can petition to be the child’s guardian or adoptive parent. The child’s legal counsel would follow the state’s process for either circumstance. However, both of these are appropriate ways to get the child under the jurisdiction of the state before seeking an SIJS predicate order. 

Take the Next Step Csépes Law Offices 

Everything we have discussed here today focuses on the initial steps of the process. Although you must first involve the state, you will ultimately have to go through the USCIS to become an LPR. Our firm is equipped to handle SIJS cases, and we have the experience to see it through. For more information about how we can assist you or someone you wish to protect, contact our office today to schedule your consultation. 

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Csépes Law Offices Provides Individualized Legal Solutions To Those Needing Family Law, Immigration, Or Real Estate Counsel.

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