Part J - Special Immigrant Juveniles
8 CFR 103.3 - Denials, appeals, and precedent decisions
8 CFR 103.5 - Reopening or reconsideration
8 CFR 205.1(a)(3)(iv) - Reasons for automatic revocation
8 CFR 205.2 - Revocation on notice
INA 101(b) - Definition of child
INA 201 - Worldwide level of immigration
INA 202 - Numerical limitations on individual foreign states
INA 203 - Allocation of immigrant visas
INA 203(b)(4) - Certain special immigrants
INA 204(a)(1)(G)(i) - Petitioning procedure
INA 245(h) - Adjustment of special immigrant juveniles
INA 287(h) - Protecting abused juveniles
On November 19, 2019, USCIS provided more clarity on several requirements for special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) classification, including the following:
USCIS reaffirmed and clarified that the petitioner must have been a juvenile under the relevant state law definition of “juvenile” (or equivalent term) when the juvenile court order was issued;
USCIS clarified the definition of a juvenile court for purposes of SIJ classification and provides examples of the types of evidence that may be provided to establish that a court is acting as a qualifying juvenile court;
USCIS clarified guidance on what constitutes a qualifying “dependency” or “custody” determination from the juvenile court for the purposes of SIJ classification eligibility;
USCIS clarified guidance on the statutorily-mandated USCIS consent function;
USCIS clarified guidance on what qualifies as a similar basis to abuse, neglect, or abandonment under state law; and
USCIS reaffirmed for officers that the agency no longer requires that the juvenile court had jurisdiction to place the juvenile in the custody of the unfit parent(s) in order to make a qualifying determination regarding the viability of parental reunification.
These updates and clarifications of current USCIS policy guidance are based on USCIS interpretation of the applicable terms in DHS regulations and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). An agency is not required to use the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) notice-and-comment procedures to issue an interpretive rule or one that amends or repeals an existing interpretive rule, or when modifying rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice. However, the instruction to not require evidence that a state court had jurisdiction to place the juvenile in the custody of the unfit parent(s) in order to make a qualifying determination regarding the viability of parental reunification was a policy change in response to the resource strain of ongoing litigation. As with all other policy guidance USCIS issues, these updates and clarifications to officers do not add to the substantive regulations, create legally binding rights, obligations, or change the substantive standards by which USCIS will evaluate SIJ petitions. Accordingly, USCIS published no Federal Register notices requesting public comment because public notice is not required for these internal policy changes and clarifications.
Unfair Surprise and Reliance Interest
An agency can change its interpretation of a regulation at different times in its history as long as the interpretative changes create no unfair surprise. In this case, USCIS is not changing its policy regarding SIJ adjudications. USCIS is updating this guidance to clarify what the law and regulations permit or require because of potential confusion. It has never been USCIS official policy to grant SIJ classification based on a state judge’s order that is sought primarily to permit the alien to obtain lawful immigration status.
USCIS has analyzed the potential for and taken into account serious reliance interests that may be engendered by the practices USCIS officers may have followed prior to this clarification. USCIS acknowledges that a person who may have been approved for SIJ classification before this policy alert may no longer be approved by an officer following this clarifying guidance in rendering their decision. An advocate or representative of an SIJ petitioner, not knowing of this policy, may erroneously petition the state court judge who is handling their client’s case to issue an order with findings of fact in support of the petitioner’s eligibility for SIJ that does not provide relief from parental abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar basis under state law. However, the statutory and regulatory eligibility criteria have never permitted SIJ classification to be approved using such state court orders, nor has it been official USCIS policy. Therefore, an SIJ petitioner cannot be said to have acted in reliance on the continuation of a practice and policy that has not been a USCIS practice and policy and which is contrary to the law. USCIS must limit the approval of SIJ classification to cases who are eligible based on a valid court order as required by the INA regardless of its effects on parties who may rely on erroneous state court orders.
With respect to the policy change to no longer require evidence that a state court had jurisdiction to place the juvenile in the custody of the unfit parent(s) in order to make a qualifying determination regarding the viability of parental reunification, USCIS made that change in response to the strain of litigation. USCIS anticipated that the change would not negatively impact petitioners with potential reliance interests, rather it would reduce their evidentiary burden.
USCIS implemented this policy update immediately, as it was merely a clarification. However, USCIS still allowed interested parties an opportunity to comment by providing a 10-day comment period, as is generally provided for Policy Manual publications.
[^ 7] See Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Assoc., 135 S.Ct. 1199 (2015).
[^ 8] James v. Hurson Associates, Inc. v. Glickman, 229 F.3d 277 (D.C. Cir. 2000)
[^ 9] See Long Island Care at Home Ltd. v. Coke, 551 U.S. 158, 171 (2007). See Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., 567 U.S. 142 (2012).
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk (PDF, 327.05 KB) between the AFM and the Policy Manual.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating the USCIS Policy Manual regarding the special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) classification.
This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing policy guidance regarding the special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) classification and special immigrant-based (EB-4) adjustment of status, including adjustment based on classification as a special immigrant religious worker, SIJ, and G-4 international organization or NATO-6 employee or family member, among others.