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Immigration Law

SIJ News from USCIS (Mar. 7, 2022)

USCIS Announces Policies to Better Protect Immigrant Children Who Have Been Abused, Neglected, or Abandoned: "United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced new policies that will provide better protection to immigrant children who are victims of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar parental maltreatment. “Today, we are taking action to help immigrant children in the U.S. who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned and offer them protection to help rebuild their lives,” said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou. “These policies will provide humanitarian protection to vulnerable young people for whom a juvenile court has determined that it is in their best interest to remain in the United States.” The new policies include updating regulations to clarify Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) eligibility criteria such as updating an age-out provision to protect petitioners who turn 21 while their petition is pending. Additionally, USCIS is updating regulations for evidentiary requirements to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the program and ensure that eligible victims of parental abuse, neglect, or abandonment receive SIJ classification and a pathway to apply for lawful permanent residence (LPR) status. USCIS may consent to a grant of SIJ classification when the petitioner has provided evidence of court-ordered relief from parental abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under state law, as well as evidence of the factual basis for a juvenile court’s determinations. The regulations also make clear that petitioners cannot be required to contact their alleged abuser while USCIS makes a decision in their SIJ case. An SIJ petitioner may have an attorney, accredited representative, and/or trusted adult present, if an interview is scheduled, but only attorneys and accredited representatives are entitled to make a statement during such interviews. In addition to issuing the updated regulations, USCIS is updating the USCIS Policy Manual to consider deferred action and related employment authorization for noncitizens classified as SIJs who are ineligible to apply for adjustment of status to LPR status solely because a visa is not immediately available. Deferred action and employment authorization will provide invaluable assistance to these vulnerable noncitizens who have limited financial and other support systems in the United States while they await an available visa number. This Policy Manual update (PDF, 440.38 KB) is effective May 6, 2022, and applies to eligible noncitizens classified as SIJs before, on, or after that date, based on an approved Form I-360, Petition for Ameriasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant."

USCIS to Offer Deferred Action for Special Immigrant Juveniles: "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that it is updating the USCIS Policy Manual to consider deferred action and related employment authorization for noncitizens who have an approved Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) classification but who cannot apply to adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) because a visa number is not available. Deferred action is an act of prosecutorial discretion that defers proceedings to remove a noncitizen from the United States for a certain period. Deferred action does not provide lawful status. The SIJ classification is available to noncitizen children subject to state juvenile court proceedings related to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under state law. SIJ classification does not confer lawful status and does not result in eligibility to apply for employment authorization. Deferred action and related employment authorization will help to protect noncitizens with SIJ classification who cannot apply for adjustment of status solely because they are waiting for a visa number to become available. This process furthers congressional intent to provide humanitarian protection for abused, neglected, or abandoned noncitizen children for whom a juvenile court has determined that it is in their best interest to remain in the United States. USCIS will consider deferred action on a case-by-case basis and will grant it if the SIJ warrants a favorable exercise of discretion. USCIS will automatically conduct deferred action determinations for individuals with SIJ classification who cannot apply for LPR status because a visa number is not available. A separate request for deferred action is not required and will not be accepted by USCIS. SIJs who have moved since their Form I-360 was approved should update their address with USCIS as soon as possible to ensure that they receive correspondence related to deferred action. If USCIS grants deferred action, it will be for a period of four years. An SIJ who has been granted deferred action will be able to apply for employment authorization for their period of deferred action by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and indicating eligibility category (c)(14). This update (PDF, 440.38 KB), contained in Volume 6 of the Policy Manual, is effective May 6, 2022, and applies to eligible noncitizens classified as SIJs before, on or after May 6, based on an approved Form I-360. This guidance is controlling and supersedes any prior guidance on the topic."