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Special visa program for illegal immigrants in foster care

Many children are brought to the United States illegally and do not discover until later in life that they are not U.S. citizens. A special visa program has helped 10,000 young illegal immigrants become permanent residents since 1997. Applicants for this visa program must be under 21, unmarried, and a dependent of the state at the time of application.

The code for special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS) is "SL6," a program that is not widely known that allows illegal immigrants in foster care to live and work in the U.S. as legal permanent residents. With strict crackdown on immigration in Arizona, Utah, Georgia and Alabama, the program has been overshadowed, and even underused by immigrants who could potentially benefit in Miami, Florida and nationwide.

Many young immigrants have also flocked to the new program allowing deferred action that allows some young illegal immigrants to avoid deportation. This new policy will not directly change the juvenile visa program, however it could make more illegal immigrants comfortable to come forward and ask for help in the U.S and an increase in visa applications. Many immigrants who do not qualify for the special visa program may become eligible under Obama's new policy.

The special visa program is permanent, unlike the deferred action program for qualified "DREAMers." If you are a young immigrant in the U.S., you could be eligible for SL6 status as a foster child. If you are not a dependent of the state, you may also have other opportunities under Obama's policy change. An experienced attorney can help you explore your options and protect your rights.

Source: The Washington Post, "Special visa program offers citizenship path for illegal immigrant youth in foster care," Aug. 25, 2012

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