As a Miami immigration lawyer, I have handled quite a few Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) cases. Below are some frequently asked questions about SIJ program.

What is the purpose of the Special Immigrant Juvenile program?

The purpose of the SIJ program is to help foreign children in the United States who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected.

  • Certain children who are unable to be reunited with a parent can get a green card as a SIJ
  • Children who get a green card through the SIJ program can live and work permanently in the United States

Can any child qualify for the Special Immigrant Juvenile program?

No, not every child can qualify for the Special Immigration Juvenile program There are very specific requirements for a child to qualify for SIJS, including but not limited to:

  • The applicant must be under 21 years old
  • The applicant must be unmarried;
  • The applicant must be declared dependent in a juvenile court.
  • Reunification with one or both of the child’s parents must no longer be a viable option due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar basis under state law, and;
  • It is not in the best interests of the minor to return to his/her country of nationality or last habitual residence.

If you have any questions as to whether a child qualifies for the Special Immigrant Juvenile program, it is best to consult with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options.

Can you tell me some of the benefits to obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile status?

There are several benefits to obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. If an applicant qualifies under the Special Immigrant Juvenile program, the program waives several types of inadmissibility that would otherwise prevent an immigrant from getting a green card later on. Some examples of inadmissibility that are waived by qualifying under SIJ include: unlawful entry; working without authorization, and; status as a public charge. In other words, there is a path to citizenship under SIJ.

How does one go about obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile status?

Typically, the Miami immigration lawyer, will open a proceeding in the Family Court in the county where the applicant resides. In this case, I will open a proceeding in Miami-Dade County.  As part of this proceeding, I will work to obtain a court order that declares the minor’s eligibility for SIJS. Obtaining this order is a prerequisite to applying for SIJS status.

After obtaining the order from Family Court, I can then help the minor to petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for SIJS. By no means it this  a simple or straightforward process. If you are thinking of applying for SIJS for a minor applicant, I would highly recommend that you consult with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options.

What happened recently with the SIJ program?

A West Palm Beach appeals court recently ruled that “judicial resources too often are being misused to obtain dependency orders for minors who are neither abused, neglected or abandoned, and who seek a dependency adjudication… not because they are endangered and need protection but because they want preferential immigration treatment.”In a concurring opinion in a separate case last week, the Miami-based Third District Court of Appeal ruled that, “These cases are immigration cases, pure and simple.” He added: “The authority to control immigration — to admit or exclude aliens — is vested in the federal government,” not the state.

As a Miami immigration attorney, I must interject at this juncture to note that the dramatic rise in SIJ petitions has been fueled largely by spiraling violence in Central America. The recent restrictions in SIJ cases will block relief for many immigrant children who have experienced abuse, and who suffer the same emotional and physical problems as abused U.S. citizen children — often more. Added to the other insecurities facing them, immigrant youth without documentation will not be able to work legally or qualify for in-state tuition at college, and face the constant threat of deportation.

If you would like more information on the Special Immigrant Juvenile program (SIJ), please contact Miami immigration lawyer Michael G. Murray, Esq. at (305) 895-2500 or visit our website at

Coronavirus update: We are safely open for business! USCIS is still accepting new filings for all applications. Our office is offering virtual consultations for new clients so that you don't have to come to our office in person. Call us to schedule your virtual meeting today.
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