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Can I help a child get lawful residency in the U.S.?

If you are considering adoption, you likely want nothing more than to make sure a child feels loved and they have a safe and happy home. You may be considering adopting a child who is an immigrant to give a young person better opportunities in the United States than they may have in their home country.

If the child is an immigrant, it can be a bit complicated, as they need to ensure their resident status in the U.S. is secure. One way children can receive permanent residency through adoption is by applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).

Helping a child obtain SIJS

SIJS allows immigrant children to obtain lawful permanent resident status. This option was created for children who cannot return to their country of origin because it is not in their best interest, and for children whose reunification with their parents is not viable under state laws. Commonly, this is because there is abuse, abandonment or neglect from the parents.

Children who have been adopted can apply for SIJS, but the juvenile court retains jurisdiction over a case for months or years until the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) approves the application. Once an adoption is completed, the court ends its jurisdiction. In many cases, the court will delay an adoption until INS approval is secured or even retain jurisdiction over a case after the adoption is finalized.

Immigrating through adoption

Children who are under 16 years old when the adoption is complete can immigrate to the U.S. through their adoptive parents, but the child must also live in the adoptive parents’ legal custody for two years before filing papers.

In some cases, this can lead to a faster citizenship process for the child. A child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen if, before they turn 18 years old, they:

  • Are a permanent resident, through SIJS, family immigration or other means,
  • Are legally adopted in the U.S. before 16 years old, and has resided in the legal custody of a citizen for two years, and
  • Are residing in the legal and physical custody of a parent who is a U.S. citizen

However, there are disadvantages to this route. There can be longer waiting periods if you are a permanent resident instead of a citizen. Sometimes, children are also required to return to their home country for a few days to obtain an immigrant visa. There is also a larger potential for the child to be subject to mire grounds of inadmissibility.

Ripping through the red tape

If you are considering adopting a child who is an immigrant and need help working with juvenile courts and INS, an attorney with experience representing adoptive parents and SIJS cases can help sort through all the legal issues.

Even though the processes can be complex, there are options available to make sure all children, immigrant or otherwise, are able to live in the United States freely and in a safe and loving home.



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