Fordham University launched the Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Project earlier this year to study policy changes that can improve the lives of children who entered the United States alone. In the New York City area, there are thousands of young immigrants who do not have adequate family support in the United States. These children face many threats, including homelessness, lack of health care and difficulty obtaining education.
The problems facing unaccompanied immigrant children are diverse, and there is no single solution. But for some immigrant children, Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status provides a path to lawful residence in the United States. The SIJ program is designed to help immigrant children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected. Petitioning for SIJ status requires a state court order, including a finding that it is not in the best interests of the child to return to home. Once the status is granted, the child can apply for a green card and permanently live and work in the United States.
To be eligible for SIJ status you must:
- Be under the age of 21 when you file your application
- Have a current state court order containing facts about your situation of abuse, abandonment or neglect
- Not be married
- Be in the United States when you file your application
The SIJ program is a critical lifeline for many immigrant children. If you, a friend or a family member is considering applying for SIJ status, be certain to understand the program and its requirements before you apply. If you need additional help, call an immigration attorney who can guide you through the process.