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Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)

Written By Lisa Shea, Esq.

Pictured is Marta and her beautiful two-year-old daughter.  Marta is an immigration success story after Lisa Shea, head of the immigration practice group at VFN, helped Marta obtain her green card in 2011 through special immigrant juvenile status adjustment.  Marta was born in El Salvador in 1991 and at the age of three months, she was left by her parents in the care of her grandmother who beat her relentlessly.  In 2008, thinking life would be better, Marta traveled by herself at the age of 16 to live with her alcoholic mother, but things only got worse.  Her mother was not prepared to raise her child and worked her for long hours, abused her, and tried to kill her by holding a loaded gun to her head and hitting her with a car.  Her mother finally abandoned her to distant relatives who kicked Marta out of their house within six months of her arrival, leaving her homeless and pregnant.  She went into foster care and the Manassas Department of Social Services reached out to Ms. Shea to take the case pro bono.  After two years of working on the immigration case, and several years of Marta remaining in foster care, Marta got her green card.  Now Marta has a family of her own and is a dental assistant.  She is happy in her life and is a contributing member of our community; she can see how far she has come from when she first came to the United States.

In order to qualify for special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS) a juvenile in Virginia must meet the following criteria.  First, be found to be dependent upon a juvenile court or in the custody of an agency, or department of the state.  In Virginia, a juvenile should have a custody determination issued by the juvenile court before the age of 18 years old.  Although the statute may allow the filing of the custody petition before 18 years old, with adjudication after 18 years old, some judges are still construing the law that the custody determination must occur before the age of 18 years old.  Second, at the time of custody determination and filing of the SIJS petition with USCIS, the juvenile must be unmarried and under the age of 21 years old.  Third, the juvenile must be present in the United States at the time the relief is granted.  Fourth, the juvenile must be eligible for long-term foster care due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment by one or both parents.  And, Fifth, the juvenile must prove that it is not in their best interest to be returned to their home country.

Marta came into our office recently, after 11 years, to see if we could help other family members legalize their status.  We had a joyous reunion after all this time and the opportunity to see each other again.  One of the many benefits of practicing immigration law is to see clients progress after attaining legal status, and that progress has been especially outstanding for Marta.  We handle many SIJS cases successfully from the custody determination phase to the application for SIJS, and lastly to adjustment of status, including for juveniles who are in removal proceedings.  Please contact us if you need assistance with an SIJS case.  We are more than happy to assist!


Lisa Shea is a shareholder at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. She is leading the firm’s Immigration practice, as well as Immigration Chair for the Prince William County Bar Association.  If you have additional questions or concerns contact Lisa Shea at or call us at 703-335-2009.

www.immigrantsfirst.com (for information about immigration solutions)
www.vfnlaw.com (for information about solutions in other areas of law)

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer