Children & Youth
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
Immigrant children who have suffered abuse, abandonment, or neglect by one or by both of their parents and who are present in the United States may seek Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and become lawful permanent residents.
- Applicants for SIJS must be under the age of 21, unmarried, and unable to reunify with one or both parents due to abuse, abandonment or neglect.
- Applicants must also be dependent on a juvenile court in the United States, typically by being placed in the foster care or delinquency systems. Or, in the alternative, they must be legally committed to, or placed under the custody of a person or an institution in the United States.
- Applicants for SIJS must further demonstrate that it is in their best interest to remain in the United States and to not be returned to their country.
- Children who are awarded SIJS are automatically “forgiven” for actions that would likely prevent lawful permanent residence for other individuals, such as entry without inspection, failure to maintain valid nonimmigrant status, and working without authorization. They may also apply for waivers for other, more serious actions, such as prior deportations or criminal activity.
- It is important to note that children who receive permanent residency and then U.S. citizenship through SIJS will never be able to petition for lawful permanent residency for their parents.
Christina Wilkes, the founder of Wilkes Legal, LLC, was an early pioneer of SIJS cases. She brought some of the very first SIJS cases in the D.C. metropolitan region and, since then, has represented over 300 children in becoming lawful permanent residents through SIJS. Wilkes Legal is committed to assisting immigrant children who have been abused, neglected or face other similar struggles. We recognize the distinct challenges these children face. Unlike many law firms that focus on either family law or immigration law, we are equipped to handle all aspects of SIJS cases. We have extensive experience representing children and their caretakers in family law proceedings before the Maryland and D.C. courts, and in immigration proceedings before USCIS and the Immigration Courts. We are well prepared to build strong SIJS cases, as well as to advise if alternate immigration solutions more appropriately meet an individual child’s needs.