On March 7, 2022, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the update of the USCIS Policy Manual. The new document would consider deferred action and related employment authorization to align SIJ classification with the current federal statutes. The aim is to improve the programs’ efficiency and effectiveness.

Affected parties are noncitizens that hold approved Special Immigrants, Petition for Amerasian, Form 1-360, or Widower for Special Immigrant Juvenile. However, the parties must be unable to adjust their status to a lawful permanent resident (LPR) due to the unavailability of visa numbers. You can consult Oakland immigration attorneys to determine how the new policy affects you.

What is Deferred Action or Work Authorization?

Deferred action is a prosecutorial discretion act. It allows proceedings to remove a noncitizen from the US for a specific time. However, the act doesn’t define a lawful status. The USCIS only grants deferred action or work authorization if the SIJ permits a favorable exercise of discretion.

Deferred action determinations by the USCIS is an automatic procedure for all individuals with SIJ classification. The individuals must be unable to apply for LPR status when the deferred action is granted. The USCIS doesn’t require or accept a separate request for deferred action.

Once the USCIS grants deferred action, it’ll be valid for four years. Effective May 6, 2022, an individual in the SIJ classification who has been granted deferred action can apply for employment authorization for the period specified in their deferred action. They can do so by filing Form 1-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

What is the SIJ Classification

SIJ classification isn’t a legal status and doesn’t automatically warrant eligibility for employment authorization. Instead, the classification protects noncitizen children subject to court proceedings due to neglect, abuse, abandonment, or similar issues under state law. The deferred action policy serves to protect these individuals as they await the availability of a visa number.

The classification is more of a congressional intent to provide humanitarian protection for abandoned, neglected, or abused noncitizen children after a juvenile court determines if they can remain in the United States. Immigration appeals lawyers in Oakland can review your case to appeal the court’s decision if it rules against you staying in the country.

What is the Updated Eligibility for SIJ Classification?

If you’re an immigrant juvenile in the United States and need the juvenile court’s protection, you may be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) classification. That’s especially if you’re a victim of neglect, abandonment, or abuse by your parent. However, you must be less than 21 years at the time you file the SIJ petition (Form 1-360).

You also must meet these statutory requirements as outlined in the USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 6, Part J-Special Immigrants Juveniles:

Residence

You must be living in the United States when you file the petition and when the USCIS rules on your petition. You can’t apply from outside the country to move to the US on the SIJ classification.

Marriage

You mustn’t be married. If you were formerly married, the marriage must have ended in death, divorce, or annulment by the time you file an SIJ petition and when the court decides about your petition.

Possession of Juvenile Court Order

You must possess a valid juvenile court order from a state court showing that:

  • You need court protection or are in the custody of a state agency, an individual appointed by the court, or a government department
  • Reunification with your parent is not possible because they subjected you to neglect, abuse, or abandoned you
  • It’s not in your best interest to return to your country of nationality or your parent’s former habitual residence

These conditions must be in place when you file the SIJ petition and when the court decides about your petition. The only exception is that you don’t need to currently be living in the jurisdiction of the juvenile court from which you got your order. That’s because the court’s jurisdiction may have ended in one of two ways:

  • You got adopted or permanent guardianship
  • You outgrew the juvenile court’s jurisdiction

Some juvenile courts may only issue a juvenile court order if you’re below 18 years. Once the court grants your application, you may qualify for lawful permanent residence. In other words, you will get a Green Card.

Having immigration appeals attorneys in Oakland work on your case can enhance the chances of a favorable outcome. They can guide you through every step to ensure you don’t lose your case or appeal before the immigration court. 

USCIS Consent Eligibility

By the time the USCIS decides on your petition, you must be eligible for USCIS consent. You must have obtained the juvenile court order to get relief from abandonment, neglect, and abuse. The order mustn’t be primarily to receive an immigration benefit.

Consent from HHS

Ensure you have written consent from the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department or the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The consent must be to the relevant juvenile court’s jurisdiction if:

  • The order changes your placement or custody
  • You’re currently in the custody of the HHS

The USCIS considers deferred action on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the circumstances, it will grant it to SIJ beneficiaries based on a favorable exercise of discretion. It would be in your best interest to consult immigration attorneys in Oakland to evaluate your options and fight for a favorable court decision. 

A Compassionate Immigration Lawyer Helping with Your Deferred Action Case

The USCIS has many SIJ applicants, and for the last 5-6 years, there’s been a backlog for children from various parts of the world. Therefore, the department updated its Policy Manual to provide that it would consider granting deferred action on a case-by-case basis. Doing so would help reduce the number of vulnerable populations in limbo.

If you wish to file an SIJ petition to be considered for the deferred action plan, consider consulting Oakland immigration appeals attorneys to follow up on your case. Experienced lawyers in our firm can help protect your immigration rights despite your immigration status. Contact us for a FREE case evaluation to discuss your legal options.