Chapter 3 - Documentation and Evidence
A petitioner seeking special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) classification must submit all of the following documentation to USCIS:
A copy of the petitioner’s birth certificate or other evidence of the petitioner’s age;
Copies of the juvenile court order(s) and administrative document(s), as applicable, that establish eligibility;
Evidence of the factual basis for the juvenile court’s determinations; and
A copy of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) consent, if applicable.
The petitioner may file Form I-360 alone or concurrently with the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485), if there is an immigrant visa currently available for the SIJ immigrant classification and the petitioner is otherwise eligible.
Documentation of Age
An SIJ petitioner should submit documentation of age in the form of a valid birth certificate, official government-issued identification document, or other document that in USCIS’ discretion establishes the petitioner’s age. If primary documentation of birth is not available to the petitioner, USCIS may consider affidavits or secondary evidence of age, which may include baptismal certificates, school records, hospital records, or immunization records, in order to evaluate whether the petitioner has met the petitioner’s burden of proof by the preponderance of the evidence.
Affidavits must be sworn to by persons who have personal knowledge of the event to which they attest. Any affidavit must contain the affiant's full name and address, date and place of birth, relationship to the petitioner, if any, and complete details concerning how the affiant acquired knowledge of the event.
The juvenile court order(s) must provide the required judicial determinations regarding dependency or custody, parental reunification, and best interests. These determinations may be made in a single juvenile court order or in separate juvenile court orders. The order(s) should use language establishing that the specific judicial determinations were made under state law. This requirement may be met if the order(s) cite those state law(s), or if the petitioner submits supplemental evidence which could include, for example, a copy of the petition with state law citations, excerpts from relevant state statutes considered by the state court prior to issuing the order, or briefs or legal arguments submitted to the court.
USCIS looks at the documents submitted in order to ascertain the role and actions of the court and to determine whether the proceedings provided relief to the child under the relevant state law(s). The juvenile court order may use different legal terms than those found in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as long as the determinations have the same meaning as the requirements for SIJ classification (for example, “guardianship” or “conservatorship” may be equivalent to custody). Orders that just mirror or cite to federal immigration law and regulations are not sufficient.
There is nothing in USCIS guidance that should be construed as instructing juvenile courts on how to apply their own state law. Juvenile courts should follow their state laws on issues such as when to exercise their authority, evidentiary standards, and due process.
Similar Basis under State Law
The language of the order may vary based on individual state child welfare law due to variations in terminology and local state practice in making child welfare decisions. If a juvenile court makes the determinations based upon a state law similar to abuse, neglect, or abandonment, the petitioner must provide evidence of how the basis is legally similar to abuse, neglect, or abandonment under state law.
Such evidence must include the juvenile court’s determination as to how the basis is legally similar to abuse, neglect, or abandonment under state law, or other evidence that establishes that the juvenile court made a judicial determination that the legal basis is similar to abuse, neglect, or abandonment under state law. Such evidence may include the petition for dependency, complaint for custody, or other documents that initiated the juvenile court proceedings. USCIS does not re-adjudicate whether the juvenile court determinations regarding similar basis comply with that state’s law, only whether they comply with the federal immigration law requirements for SIJ classification.
The fact that one or both parents is deceased is not itself a similar basis to abuse, neglect, or abandonment under state law. A legal conclusion from the juvenile court is required to establish that parental death constitutes abuse, neglect, abandonment, or is legally equivalent to a similar basis under state law.
For DHS to consent to the grant of SIJ classification, the juvenile court order(s) and any supplemental evidence submitted by the petitioner must include the factual basis for the required determinations, as well as the relief from parental abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar basis under state law granted or recognized by the court. Relief from parental maltreatment may include the court-ordered custodial placement, or the court ordered dependency on the court for the provision of child welfare services and/or other court-ordered or court-recognized protective or remedial relief.
Where the factual basis for the court’s determinations demonstrates that the juvenile court order was sought to protect the child and the record shows the juvenile court actually provided relief from abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under state law, DHS generally consents to the grant of SIJ classification. If a petitioner does not provide a court order that includes facts that establish a factual basis for all of the required determinations, USCIS may request evidence of the factual basis for the court’s determinations. USCIS does not require specific documents to establish the factual basis or the entire record considered by the court. However, the burden is on the petitioner to provide the factual basis for the court’s determinations. Examples of documents that a petitioner may submit to USCIS that may support the factual basis for the court order include:
Any supporting documents submitted to the juvenile court, if available;
The petition for dependency or complaint for custody or other documents which initiated the juvenile court proceedings;
Affidavits summarizing the evidence presented to the court and records from the judicial proceedings; and
Affidavits or records that are consistent with the determinations made by the court.
Youth in HHS Custody
Youth in HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody seeking SIJ classification may not be able to alter their custodial placement via a juvenile court and instead may seek a dependency determination from a juvenile court. In circumstances in which a youth in ORR custody receives a qualifying dependency determination under state law, USCIS may consider evidence of the court’s recognition of the ORR placement to be the protective remedial relief provided in conjunction with the dependency determination. USCIS recognizes that, generally, placement in federal custody with ORR affords protection as an unaccompanied child under federal law and removes a state juvenile court’s need to provide a petitioner with additional relief from parental maltreatment under state law.
A declaratory judgment generally determines the rights of parties without ordering anything to be done. In the context of juvenile court determinations, a declaratory judgment may state facts but not order custody, dependency, or make legal reunification or best interest determinations. However, a declaratory judgment may be sufficient to merit DHS consent if accompanied by or includes a qualifying court-ordered custodial placement or a declaration of dependency on the court for the provision of child welfare services and/or other court-ordered or recognized protective remedial relief.
The order or supporting evidence should specifically indicate:
What type of relief the court is providing, such as child welfare services or custodial placement;
With whom the child is placed, if the court has appointed a specific custodian or guardian, (for example, the name of the person, or entity, or agency) and the factual basis for this finding;
Which of the specific grounds (abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar basis under state law) apply to which of the parent(s) and the factual basis for the court’s determinations on non-viability of parental reunification; and
The factual basis for the determination that it is not in the petitioner’s best interest to return to the petitioner’s or the petitioner’s parents’ country of nationality or last habitual residence (for example, addressing family reunification with family that remains in the child’s country of nationality or last habitual residence).
USCIS is mindful that there are often confidentiality rules that govern disclosure of records from juvenile-related proceedings. For this reason, officers generally do not request information or documents from sources other than the SIJ petitioner or his or her legal representative.
Children often do not share personal accounts of their family life with an unknown adult until they have had the opportunity to form a trusting relationship with that adult. Therefore, officers should exercise careful judgment when considering statements made by children at the time of initial apprehension by immigration or law enforcement officers to question the determinations made by the juvenile court.
Additionally, the juvenile court may make child welfare placement, custody, and best interest decisions that differ from the child’s stated intentions at the time of apprehension. However, if there is significant contradictory information in the file that the juvenile court was likely not aware of or that may impact whether a reasonable factual basis exists for the court’s determinations, officers may request additional evidence from the petitioner or his or her legal representative.
However, officers may not require or request an SIJ petitioner to contact the person or family members of the person who allegedly abused, neglected, or abandoned the SIJ petitioner.
[^ 4] See 8 CFR 204.11(d)(2). SIJ petitioners are not subject to the general presumption of ineligibility at 8 CFR 103.2(b)(2)(i), since that general rule is superseded by the specific provisions in 8 CFR 204.11(d)(2).
[^ 13] Such affidavits or records will be assigned low evidentiary value unless they are accompanied by evidence that the court considered the information contained therein in the course of issuing its judicial determinations.
[^ 14] For example, if the juvenile court order states that the petitioner is in ORR custody, or the underlying documents submitted to the juvenile court establish the juvenile’s placement in ORR custody, that would generally be sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the court was aware that the petitioner was residing in ORR custody. See 8 CFR 204.11(d)(5)(ii)(B).
[^ 16] See definition of “judgment” and “declaratory judgment,” Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).
[^ 17] USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) officers conducting fraud investigations follow separate FDNS procedures on documentation requests.