When most people think of international adoptions, they picture someone going overseas to adopt a child. However, sometimes international adoptions take place right on U.S. soil. How does this happen? There are some children already in America who are not legal residents and are victims of abuse. Many of these children remain silent because they fear deportation for themselves and the rest of their families. When authorities discover the abuse, these children often end up in U.S. foster care.
American family members or friends who learn of the situation may try to help by adopting the minors. However, this might involve also petitioning for their legal residency status. This is a big decision and one that should not be taken lightly. The good news is that USCIS does have a program these minors might be eligible for. USCIS calls the program the Special Immigrant Juvenile classification.
The program is specifically in place to help abused and neglected foreign juveniles find a path to legal immigration through adoption into American homes. Because these children are already living in the United States, when successful, SIJ leads to an adjustment of status. The caveat is that even if they become naturalized, they typically cannot petition for their natural or adoptive parents to gain residency in the U.S.
In October 2019, USCIS issued additional clarification on the instances where adoptive parents could petition for children using SIJ. It required proof that courts had intervened on behalf of the child to provide relief from abandonment or abuse. The USCIS put this stipulation to discourage people from using the system to secure a green card for their children when abuse was not a factor in the split.