Representing Clients All Over the U.S.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status May Be Faster Route to Green Card for Kids Instead of Adoption
Posted By:
Posted On: January 12, 2013
 In 1990, the U.S. Congress established Special Immigrant Juvenile status (SIJS). SIJS is designed for non-U.S. citizen children who do not have permanent residence and have been abused, neglected or abandoned by one or both parents and need a green card. It is an alternative to an otherwise, potentially lengthy and sometimes, impossible, adoption process.

For a child to obtain SIJS, a U.S. state juvenile court or State court (such as a probate court that awards guardianship) must:
  1. Make the child dependent on the court (or place the child under the legal custody of a state agency or other individual appointed by the state or individual appointed by the state); and
  2. Declare that the child cannot be reunited with one or both of his or her parents due to abuse, abandonment or neglect; and
  3. Find that it is not in the best interests of the child to be returned to his country of citizenship.
SIJS allows a child to apply for a green card while remaining in the United States, despite how the child entered (even if entered illegally) and is a much faster process than traditional adoption in most circumstances. Adoption can take much longer if the home country must first approve of the adoption or if the adoption is subject to the Hague Convention. In determining if guardianship should be granted or the child is a dependent of the state, the court will weigh the totality of the circumstances in determining the child’s s a care and custody, but CIS has the final say in determining SIJs eligibility and a potential green card for the child.
From a timing standpoint, the SIJS application with USCIS can be filled concurrently with the green card application, granting the child a work permit (a way to a state ID and social security card) within 3 months on average while the case is pending with CIS. 
Immigration based on adoption would take much longer and in some cases would require the adopting U.S. citizen(s) to travel to the foreign country and stay there for some time and finalize an adoption abroad. There is also a physical custody requirement of two years with the adopting parents to formalize the adoption for immigration purposes. Another difficult issue has been when to permit the biological mother of a child born out of wedlock to release her child for foreign adoption without the consent of the biological father, if the mother cannot provide proper care. This is difficult because the father could be out of the child’s life or worse, be unwilling to consent.

Another benefit of SIJS is that the court can retain jurisdiction over the child even past the age of 18 whereas if a couple adopts a child for immigration purposes, the adoption must be legally final by the age of 16. For SIJS to be successful, it is advisable to work with both a probate or juvenile court attorney and an immigration attorney who can work together on the case.
Subscribe to Attorney Heather’s Immigration Updates, a periodic email newsletter on the latest immigration issues that affect marriage and family-based immigration cases.

Get Your Free Guide! Immigration Attorneys & You: How to Choose Between the Right One and Those You Should Run From by Attorney Heather L. Poole

Attorney Heather L. Poole practices exclusively in the area of U.S. family-based immigration law and citizenship law. Heather is a nationally-published immigration author, frequent lecturer on immigration issues, and member & officer of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Southern California Chapter. For more information about Heather and the services offered, visit


Rose Lee February 25, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Nice informative post dear. some useful information about Green Card For Child to share

Seanna Herring July 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Question, we have a young lady we (natural citizens) want to adopt. The system took too long and she “aged out” in March. She has lived here all her life and has her green card. What is the process now to her citizenship?
We will be adopting her younger sisters, one is 16 and an immigrant without her green card. Will the adoption give her citizenship?
We are just trying to figure out this Special Immigration Status and the social workers seem clueless.
Thank you,

Previous post:

Next post: