California Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Lawyer

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status - Castro Law Offices Can Help

Undocumented minors who are being abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents do not have to resign themselves to years of pain and suffering. They may be able to seek refuge by applying for “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status” (SIJS). If an undocumented minor secures Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, they may qualify for a green card that would allow them to stay in the United States as lawful permanent resident. 

The Special Immigrant Juvenile attorneys with Castro Law Offices are ready and able to assist undocumented minors during this difficult and emotionally-challenging situation. An SIJS lawyer in California affiliated with our law firm possesses a keen understanding of how to approach these challenging cases. We take pride in working closely with all relevant parties to prepare the necessary court filings and related paperwork to try and ensure a smooth (considering the circumstances) process. A California family lawyer with our firm will also manage and coordinate all communications with representatives from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during the SJIS application review process.

Our Expertise in Family Law and SIJS

Jeremy Castro possesses a unique understanding of the significance and sensitivity associated with securing Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Before launching Castro Law Offices, Jeremy worked at the Family Violence Law Center in Oakland and gained valuable experience working under Roberta Laub-Rode with Amigos Immigration in San Rafael. While working at Amigos Immigration, Jeremy provided legal counsel and assistance to multiple clients preparing for SIJS California proceedings in counties and jurisdictions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Understanding SIJS Eligibility

To be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a California family court will need to make a formal determination that the undocumented minor was abandoned, neglected, or abused by one or both of their parents. Once that determination is made, the family court will need to determine that reunification with the undocumented minor’s parent, or parents, should not occur since it would not be in the undocumented minor’s best interest.

Another critically-important criterion for determining SIJS eligibility is the age of the undocumented minor. Even in situations where the other SIJS qualifications are met, it is only possible to obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status when someone is considered to be a legal minor. For example, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) set the maximum age to pursue SJIS at age 21. However, it is important to note that some states only allow SJIS applications to proceed when an applicant is under the age of 18. 

In addition to being a minor, a viable SJIS applicant must be unmarried and currently live in the United States.

Obtaining a Qualifying Court Order

To obtain SIJS, a family court in California will need to initially issue an order finding the following:

  • The undocumented minor is dependent on the court or is placed in the custody of an agency or individual by the court;
  • The undocumented minor should not be reunited with a parent due to evidence of abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment; and
  • It is not in the best interest of the undocumented minor to be returned to their home country to be reunified with their parents due to the aforementioned evidence of abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment.


Once a qualifying court order is entered, the undocumented minor’s legal counsel will need to file a petition using Form I-360 with the USCIS. Below are the eligibility requirements:

  • The applicant is younger than 21 years of age on the date of filing;
  • The qualifying court order is in effect; 
  • The applicant is not married; and
  • The applicant resides in the United States at the time the application is filed

Addressing Abuse, Neglect, or Abandonment

One of the most difficult and heart-wrenching aspects of SJIS cases is the unfortunate reality that eligible undocumented minors have been subjected to mental and/or physical abuse, neglect, and even abandonment by a parent or both parents. Properly representing undocumented minors in these types of cases requires an unparalleled level of compassion and support. The level of care and attention provided to SJIS clients is a point of pride for Castro Law Offices. We respect the inherent sensitives associated with these challenging cases and work tirelessly to obtain a positive outcome for our clients.

Best Interest Determinations

When a family court is assessing the best interests of an undocumented minor during SIJS proceedings, judges typically use two guiding principles to make the determination: (i) the safety, health, and welfare of the undocumented minor and (ii) whether there is a cognizable benefit to the undocumented minor in being reunified with their parent, or parents. 

As a result of these determinations, the court must then make the minor a court dependent or place them in the custody of a non-parental party. Non-parental parties include state agencies, court-approved guardians, and other family members.

Guardianship and Custody Proceedings

In SIJS proceedings, the issue of guardianship and/or custody of the undocumented minor needs to be addressed. When it comes to SIJS and guardianship, if an undocumented minor already has an available caretaker (other than a parent), then that caretaker may have grounds to be appointed guardian or custodian of the undocumented minor. This may also be an option for undocumented minors released to the care of a sponsor from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to guardianship, adoption by a non-parent caretaker is a possibility in the context of SIJS proceedings. Similar to guardianship, SIJS adoption may occur when a family court is able to place the child in the custody of an individual (i.e., the prospective adoptive parent) and therefore be able to issue an SIJS predicate order if it is not in the best interest of the undocumented minor to pursue parental reunification.

Contact Us for a Consultation

If you have questions or are looking for advice about the SIJS process in California, contact the Castro Law Offices, P.C. today. An SJIS lawyer in California is ready to help you during this difficult and challenging moment in your life. Our firm is based in Novato, California, but can provide effective legal services in Corte Madera, Fairfax, Greenbrae, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, and West Marin, and elsewhere in Marin County.