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There are various ways to obtain a green card to live and work in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident. One of the lesser known ways is through Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) classification, which is available to noncitizen minor children determined by U.S. state juvenile courts to have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both parents, and that reunification with that parent(s) is not viable.

Once the state court issues its finding, the USCIS adjudicates an I-360 (SIJS) petition on behalf of the child, at which time the child receives a visa number. Congress created the SIJS classification to protect children who lacked parental support from one or both parents and who would be in danger if forced to return to their country of origin.

Recently, the Department of State announced that certain Central American noncitizen children with approved SIJS petitions would not be eligible to apply for their lawful permanent resident status for several years, due to an enormous demand in recent years for SIJS classification by children from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala and a lack of visa availability. 

USCIS, in an attempt to alleviate this situation, announced that it will implement a new policy to assist these Central American children while they wait to apply for a green card under this classification, by considering deferred action and employment authorization for kids with an approved Form I-360 for (SIJS) classification but who cannot yet apply to adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident due to lack of visa availability.

At Pelton + Balducci, we believe that everyone deserves the chance to live their American Dream, and we’ve dedicated our lives and careers to guiding future Americans through the immigration process.

Read on to learn more about these USCIS and DOS updates, and how it could affect your application process.

USCIS Updates for Green Card Applicants from Three Central American Countries

Earlier this month, the Department of State’s March visa bulletin indicated that the final action date, which is the date when an immigrant visa is available and a green card may be issued, would be pushed back by several years for SIJS immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 

This change affects immigrants from these countries who fall under the Employment-Based Preference 4 category. This category includes Special Immigrant Juveniles, as well as some other classifications. SIJS children are especially vulnerable due to the fact that they have already been determined to be victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment by one or both parents.

Teenage children in this category are in special need of opportunities to further their education and seek employment.

USCIS Updated the Policy to Consider Deferred Action for Children with approved SIJS petitions

On March 7, USCIS announced a new policy that would provide Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJs) who cannot apply to adjust their status for another four to five years consideration for deferred action.

While deferred action does not provide lawful status, it does prevent proceedings to remove a noncitizen from the United States and allows for issuance of an employment authorization card (EAD).

An EAD is critical to establishing one’s life in the United States, as an applicant may then obtain a valid Social Security number, a drivers license, both of which facilitate the pursuit of higher education and employment opportunities.

This is particularly important for the vulnerable young people who fall under the SIJS classification, who have already been the victims of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar situations.

For these young people, a U.S. court has already determined it is in the best interest of the child to remain in the U.S., and it is therefore essential that they be allowed to move forward with their lives.

The policy of deferred action, then, will help protect and support these young people who cannot yet apply for adjustment of status to get a green card simply because they are waiting for a visa number to become available.

It will also put them in a better position to develop their talents and to contribute to their adoptive home of the United States by facilitating their access to education and work.

What Do SIJS Kids Need to Do to Qualify for Deferred Action?

If you have Special Immigration Juvenile status and are from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, no action is required. Deferred action should in most cases be automatically granted for a period of four years.

However, you should make sure that your address is updated with USCIS. 

For more information, or to determine whether you do in fact qualify for deferred action, it’s important to get in touch with an experienced immigration attorney.

Contact Pelton + Balducci Today

At Pelton + Balducci, we make it our business to advocate for you to reach the stable living situation in the United States that you are seeking. Our team has decades of experience, and we have successfully helped clients throughout Louisiana and the surrounding area keep their families together here in the U.S. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and discuss your case.

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