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Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Cap

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is the fastest way to achieve a green card that the US has to offer. SIJS allows children, who entered the US illegally, to obtain a green card if they qualify by meeting certain conditions. A court, usually juvenile court, must decide to declare that the child is a dependent of the court or to legally place the child with a state agency, a private agency, or a private person, it is not in the child’s best interest to return to their home country, and the child cannot be reunited with a parent due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a similar reason under state law. If a child meets these requirements, then the next step is to file an I-360 Petition asking for Special Immigrant status. SIJS is the quickest way the United States offers immigrants to receive a green card. Usually, SIJS cases are resolved in about six months.

Unfortunately, as of May 1, 2016, USCIS has put a cap on granting SIJS petitions because they issued more green cards than were congressionally given. As of now, any child with a priority date, the date they filed their I-360 Petition, after January 1, 2010 is not eligible for Adjustment of Status. Once the I-360 is approved, the next step is to apply for Adjustment of Status, where the child will receive employment authorization and eventually their green card. The cap on the SIJS cases means there is essentially a six-year backlog of cases that take precedent over more recently filed cases. The children with a priority date after January 1, 2010 cannot apply to adjust their status, which means they cannot get employment authorization or the various other benefits that come with it.

For various other visas, USCIS will grant deferred action for those people put on the waiting list so that they can receive employment authorization and other benefits. Depending on what happens at the start of the next fiscal year, the current priority date for SIJS cases may fluctuate and there may no longer be a six-year waiting period. However, I think USCIS should create a deferred action program for SIJS cases at least for the children to get employment authorization. It is a frustrating process to work with because USCIS has not established a recourse for these children, who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and it leaves them at risk of deportation.

-Mallorie Thomas