What if your whole life felt like it was on hold because of a piece of paper?
For 107,000 youth who have received SIJS status, that is the reality they are walking in. The Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), is a classification that enables certain juveniles in the United States who have been neglected, abused, or are alone, to file for permission to legally live and work in the U.S. The SIJS classification is a humanitarian status that does not by itself give permanent residency. But it enables the SIJS youth to apply for a green card, and eventually get on the path to U.S. citizenship.
While the SIJS process in itself is a wonderful program that has helped thousands of young people, the backlog that the program is currently facing has been demoralizing, to say the least. Once a youth receives an SIJS classification, they are able to apply for permanent residency, but the wait for a green card is taking multiple years at this point.
Why the Wait?
It's hard to understand why it takes so long for an abandoned youth to get permanent residency in the United States, when Congress specifically created the SIJS program to help provide a pathway to citizenship for them. But even though there was a special classification created for these youth, the SIJS process itself has very oddly been placed in the EB-4 category, positioning SIJS juveniles in competition with other “special immigrants” waiting for green cards through employment based actions - a category that includes religious workers, current and former U.S. government employees abroad, and certain officers and employees of international organizations. SIJS is a humanitarian program, yet its recipients are waiting for green cards alongside specified employment based applicants.
The United States issues a limited number of green cards every year, and an applicant's nationality determines their place in line - as there are caps in how many green cards can be issued for each nation's applicants. Advocates for youth in the SIJS program are calling on Congress to exclude SIJS recipients from the visa limits in the employment-based system.
In June 2023 a bill was introduced in the House to “eliminate employment-based visa caps on abused, abandoned, and neglected children eligible for humanitarian status, and for other purposes” but it has yet to be voted on. Time will tell if Congress is willing to move forward with the Bill in an election year…
You can contact your representatives at this link to tell them that you believe SIJS recipients should be protected from the green card backlog.
If you have questions about applying for an SIJS petition or any other immigration petition 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.