California Law Expands Eligibility for SIJS
On October 9, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 900 into law, and in the process expanded eligibility for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status findings to many immigrant youth in the state. The new law allowsprobate judges to approve guardianships and issue SIJS findings for immigrant youth between the ages of 18-21. Until now, probate judges could only approve guardianships and issue SIJS findings to those youth under the age of 18.
SIJS offers a path to permanent residence to immigrant youth who have been abused, abandoned, neglected or something similar by at least one of their parents. Under federal law, an immigrant youth can petition for SIJS until the age of 21. However,state law often effectively cuts off eligibility at age 18. The first step in the SIJS process requires immigrant youth to obtain SIJS findings from a state court judge. Most states (and until now, California)either do not offer any pathway or offer very limited pathways to the SIJS findings once the immigrant youth turn 18.
The new California law is now aligned with the federal definition of a special immigrant juvenile by making it possible for those immigrant youth who have already reached the age of 18 to pursue their case, beginning in probate guardianships. Many immigrant youth potentially eligible for SIJS have no alternative to probate guardianship proceedings to begin their claim, making this change in the law a major accomplishment for advocates and the immigrant youth they serve.