More than 44,000 children in the United States are waiting to receive green cards through the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) program, which “allows immigrant children in the state juvenile system who cannot reunify with their parents due to abuse, abandonment or neglect, and who meet certain other criteria, to obtain lawful permanent immigration status.”
But like many other immigrant visa classifications in the U.S., the wait for those with pending SIJS visa applications has been far longer than the government intended. In an attempt to aid those who have been in limbo for so long, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced an update to its Policy Manual.
Normally youth that have been classified as a Special Immigrant Juvenile after having an approved Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant wait for a visa number to become available so they can obtain a green card. But with waits for SIJS green cards currently standing at about four years, USCIS has decided to grant deferred action so that SIJS candidates can obtain employment authorization.
Deferred action means that prosecutorial discretion is used to defer proceedings to remove a noncitizen from the United States for a certain period. Deferred action does not provide lawful status. An SIJS status on its own also does not provide lawful status or employment authorization. In this context deferred action means that the U.S. government will automatically conduct deferred action determinations for SIJS classified individuals who cannot apply for a green card because a visa number is not available.
Deferred action for SIJS classified individuals will be granted for four (4) years, and once granted those candidates can apply for a work permit based on a (c)(14) eligibility.
If you are an SIJS candidate make sure to update your address with USCIS as soon as possible to ensure that you receive correspondence related to deferred action.
The new policy guidance is effective May 6, 2022, so if you are an SIJS individual with an approved I-360, your deferred action from USCIS may have already been sent out in the mail.
If you have questions about obtaining employment authorization while you wait for your SIJS visa please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.