State court Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Orders

To apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, the person first needs an SIJ order from a state court. This page gives step-by-step information on how to get one of these orders in a California court.


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How to get an SIJ order

There are 3 steps to get the SIJ order you need from a state court.

  1. You first need a case in state court
  2. Then, you ask the judge to make the order you need in that case
  3. If the judge decides you qualify, they grant the order. You can use the order to apply for SJIS with USCIS.

Get step-by-step instructions below:

1. Start a new case or use an existing case

There are different types of cases in which a state court (a superior court) can make the order you need to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. If you have a case in state court, you can ask that court to make the findings (the SIJ order) in that case. But if you do not have a case, you will need to find the right state court and right type of case for you.

The case you have can be a case that your parents filed that includes orders for custody or visitation of you, or one that someone else started, like a guardianship, to take custody of you away from your parents.

A lawyer or a court self-help center can help you figure out if a case already exists. If there is no case, a lawyer can help you decide which one is best for your situation and how to start it.

The state courts in California are called "superior courts." There is a superior court in every county. Courts work slightly differently depending on the county you are in, but the law is the same, most of the forms are the same, and in general, the case types have the same names. Usually, you will go to the superior court in the county where you currently live, but it could be elsewhere. A lawyer can help you figure out which county you should be in and what case type is the best fit for you.

Select a case type to find out more about what's it's for and where to get instructions to start that case if there isn't already one

These are cases where the court decides a child (you) is a dependent of the court. If this happens, the court may place the child in a foster home (with relatives or a foster parent), a group home, or with a guardian in a juvenile dependency guardianship. In this type of case, you will get a lawyer appointed for you for free.


Get more information about juvenile dependency cases

These are cases where a child, in this case you, has committed an offense and the court decides the child (you) is a ward of the court. If so, you might get sent to juvenile hall, or placed in a foster home, a group home, or some other institution. In this type of case, you will get a lawyer appointed for you for free.


Get more information about juvenile justice cases

Divorce or Legal Separation cases: These are cases where your parents file to get divorced or legally separated, and also to ask for custody orders about you, giving one or both of them legal custody of you.

Parentage cases (Petition to Determine Parental Relationship): These are cases where your parents are not married or domestic partners and where it hasn't yet been formally established that they are your legal parents (called "establishing parentage"). These cases are used to establish both parents as a child’s legal parents, and to ask for child custody and support.

Petition for Custody and Support of minor children: These cases, generally, are for parents who are married or domestic partners or where the parental relationship with the children has already been legally established. One or both of your parents would file this type of case to ask the court for orders about custody and child support for you.

Adoptions: In an adoption, a person who is not your parent (it can be a relative, friend, stepparent, or another adult) asks a court to let them become your legal parent and have custody of you. It is different from guardianship because adoption is permanent. The rights of your parents would end, and the adoptive parents become your new legal parents, with all legal rights to custody and also the responsibilities of being parents.

Domestic Violence Restraining OrdersWhen there is domestic violence from one parent toward another (or toward you, as the child), one parent can ask the court for a restraining order against the other for protection. In these cases, when the people asking for the orders have a child together, they can also ask for child custody orders saying which parent you should live with and who will make the decisions about your care.

Guardianships are when the parents of a child are not around or are unable to care for a child, and someone else (a relative, friend, or another adult) asks the court to be made guardian of a child. This means that the guardian would get legal custody of you, as the child.

Guardianships can be in probate court. If you are 18 to 20 years old, you can still use the probate guardianship process. If Child Protective Services (CPS) is involved, guardianships can also be ordered in juvenile dependency court.

There may be very good reasons why it may be better for you to have the guardianship happen in juvenile dependency over probate, or the other way around. If you think this type of case is good for you, make sure you talk to a lawyer to find out what type of guardianship is best.

2. Ask the judge to make the findings you need

Once you have the right type of case and the court has made some decisions, you will have to ask the court to make certain findings that federal law requires.

You need the state court to make 3 findings:

  1. That you are a dependent of the court or in legal custody of a person or agency
  2. That you cannot be reunited with a parent because of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or a similar reason under California law
  3. That it is not in your best interest to return to your country (or the country you or your parents last lived in)

Get more information about what information to include in the orders from the Immigration Legal Resource Center.

Select case type to get forms to use to ask for the order:

You will get a lawyer appointed for you for free who will help you file the papers and get the order you need. Your lawyer will use the Request for Special Immigrant Juvenile Findings (form JV-356). 

As part of this case, you file a Confidential Request for Special Immigrant Juvenile Findings—Family Law (form FL-356).

In that confidential request, you have to ask the judge for the decisions you need and attach other papers that provide the information the judge needs to make those decisions. Anyone who gets notified of your request and wants to give the court more information will need to use the Confidential Response to Request for Special Immigrant Juvenile Findings (form FL-358).

A lawyer or the court’s self-help center can help with these steps.

You will have to file a request in the guardianship case that asks the court to make the findings that you need. You must use the Petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Findings (form GC-220). A lawyer or your court’s self-help center can help you with this step.

Guardianships are usually for minors (under 18) but if you are 18 to 20 years old, you can ask for a guardianship to be set up or extended to use that case to ask for the Special Immigrant Juvenile findings that you need. 

3. Get the SIJ order

You will likely have a court hearing where a judge will decide whether to make the findings you need for your SIJ Petition. If the judge grants your requests, your lawyer or the court will prepare a court order, called Special Immigrant Juvenile Findings (form FL-357/GC-224/JV-357).

You will need this order to file your SIJ Petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The rest of your SIJ case will be handled by USCIS. 

 Get an overview of SIJS Petition Process from USCIS

Once you have a Special Juvenile Immigrant order you use it to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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