In 1990, Congress created Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status. In 2008, the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act made changes to the eligibility requirements for SIJ status and streamlined certain SIJ procedures.
SIJ status is designed for non-U.S. citizen children in the United States who do not have permanent residence and have been abused, neglected or abandoned by one or both parents. For a child to be eligible, a U.S. state juvenile court must: 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); declare that the child cannot be reunited with one or both of his or her parents due to abuse, abandonment or neglect; and declare that it is not in the best interests of the child to be returned to his country of citizenship. (The term “juvenile court” is a court located in the United States having jurisdiction under state law to make judicial determinations about the custody and care of juveniles. The exact name of juvenile courts can differ from state to state.)
Special Immigrant Juvenile status allows a child to apply for a green card (that is, lawful permanent residence) while remaining in the United States.
Under the law, the juvenile court and USCIS have distinct responsibilities. The juvenile court makes factual findings concerning the care and custody of the child. USCIS, however, makes the immigration decision, including eligibility for SIJ status and for a green card.