Over the years, comprehensive immigration reform efforts have stalled. Many people question why people here without permission from the US government just can’t go and get a visa. The answer is that it is not that easy. Immigration law is very complex and to receive a visa, people have to fit into one of the categories included in immigration law. Millions of people do not fit into any category, this includes children. So the question becomes are there any immigration options for children here without legal status. There are a few.

A simple explanation of some examples of legal options children and youth without status might be eligible for include people facing persecution due to race and religion among other things at the hands of their government, may come as refugees or apply for asylum once here and later apply for permanent residence. The number of people who can receive refugee/asylee status is limited.

Some crime victims can also receive visas, but the rules are strict and relatively few visas are available.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) allows people to remain temporarily in the U.S. if their country has experienced a devastating natural disaster, civil war or other unstable circumstances. The U.S. government keeps a list of which countries this applies to.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is for certain youth who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by at least one parent. There are very strict rules that apply and a Family Court order from a judge stating very specific facts must accompany the immigration application.

Sometimes people can be sponsored by a family member who is a US citizen or green card holder (permanent resident). However, there are many rules related to this and only certain relatives can sponsor someone.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is for certain youth who were brought to the US as children and have grown up here. There are stringent criteria and dates that people must meet that show their education level and when they arrived in the US and how long they have been living here.

People should explore the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website at http://www.uscis.gov/ or https://my.uscis.gov/exploremyoptions. The site offers various guides on the ways people might be able to attain legal status and provides detailed information on the options listed above.

If you are looking for an immigration attorney and are low income consider one of these non-profit agencies. Be aware that these agencies do not handle all kinds of immigration cases and may have to refer you to a private immigration attorney.

Digna Ochoa Center for Immigration Legal Assistance
(803) 929-1940

Catholic Charities
(864) 242-2233, ext. 204

Catholic Charities
Hilton Head
(843) 785-2200

Catholic Charities
Mt. Pleasant
(843) 388-0089

To find an immigration attorney in S.C. that does not work at a non-profit agency go to the American Immigration Lawyer Association and click on “Find an Immigration Lawyer.”

This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.