Guide to Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

This guide offers information for immigrant youth about

  • What Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is 
  • How to get a state court order needed for SIJS


Get legal help


If you are a custodian or a sponsor of an unaccompanied immigrant child, find free information and legal help.  And talk to a lawyer who can help you with the California court process.


Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a way for immigrant youth (under 21 years old) to get legal status in the United States.

You may qualify for SIJS if you're:

  • Under 21 years old
  • Not married 
  • Already in the U.S. and undocumented
  • Separated from or hurt by one or both of your parents

SIJS lets you stay legally in the United States. With SIJS, you can:

Getting SIJ status will not help to give immigration benefits to your parents. This is true even if your parents have a good relationship with you.

How to get SIJS

The first step is to get a state court order needed for SIJS

You will need to get a state court, like a California superior court, to make a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) order. 

In that order, the court hast to decide that:

  • You cannot live with one or both of your parents because one or both of them hurt you, did not take care of you, or left you without anyone to take care of you
  • It’s not in your best interests to return to your home country or the last place you or your parents lived

You can apply for the SIJ order on your own, or a friend or relative can apply on your behalf. A lawyer can also help.

If you are 17 years old or older, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. In some cases, California courts are not allowed to make the orders after someone turns 18.

Immigration issues are handled in federal immigration courts. But, federal courts don't generally get involved in family issues. So, the federal courts rely on the state court to decide if the person who needs SIJS has been abused, neglected, or abandoned.

The state court must make a child custody determination of some type, giving custody of the immigrant youth to the court, an agency, or a private person.

The court must find two things:

  1. You cannot be reunited with a parent because of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a similar reason under California law
  2. It's not in your best interests to return to your home country (or the country you or your parents last lived in)

Get step-by-step instructions to get an SIJ order

Once you have a state court order, apply for SIJS with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

If the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approves your request for SJIS, you may be eligible to apply for a green card.

More resources

Many organizations and government agencies have more information on SIJS

Legal Services for Children 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – Special Immigrant Juvenile Status page

Immigration Center for Women and Children’s SIJ page

Immigrant Legal Resource Center – resources for children and youth

California Department of Social Services webpage with resources for immigrant families and children

Unaccompanied Children Resource Center 

Get a list of immigration lawyers from the Unaccompanied Children Resource Center and California Department of Social Services.​​

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