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Legal Help | Ayuda

Unaccompanied Minors

Image of cards made by children welcoming new immigrants to Minnesota.

The Advocates provides assistance to unaccompanied minors who are victims of human rights abuses and are in Minnesota or the Dakotas.

NOTE: There are severe penalties for filing frivolous asylum applications. Immigration proceedings and applications are extremely complex. We do not recommend you file an asylum application by yourself without first consulting a reputable immigration attorney, such as The Advocates. If you are outside of our service area, you can find other support at

Frequently Asked Questions

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Unaccompanied minors or unaccompanied children (UAC) are people who have no lawful immigration status, are under the age of 21, and have no legal guardian/parent in the US. People arriving with a parent or guardian at the border are not considered UACs. UACs receive some special protections in immigration proceedings and may be eligible for immigration status.

UACs should consult a knowledgeable immigration attorney to review their case. The Advocates helps UACs who may be eligible to apply for immigration status through: asylum, as victims of human trafficking in the U.S., or as Special Immigrant Juveniles. In other cases, the person may have status through a family member who is a US citizen or permanent resident. Unfortunately, there are cases in which an UAC may not have any immigration options.

People who are placed in immigration court proceedings must appear in immigration court, even if they are minors. Many UACs processed at the border may need to request that their case be moved to Minnesota or the place they are now living. It is crucial to work with a knowledgeable immigration attorney to understand the status of proceedings and take appropriate steps.

One of the most common immigration options for immigrant youth is special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS), which is a pathway to a green card for immigrant children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both of their parents. Other common forms of relief for children include U visas (for children who were victims of crimes), relief under the Violence Against Women Act (for children who were abused by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident parent or spouse), and asylum (for children who are afraid of returning to their home country).

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is an immigration status for people who were abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both of their parents. They must be under 21 when they apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Service, and must have been subject to certain dependency orders by a state court before turning 21.

People granted SIJS can: 

Apply for permanent residence (green card) once a visa is available for them, which in some case may be immediately.   

Once permanent residence is granted, they can: 

  • File for certain family members to join them, but may never apply for their parents;
  • Live and work in the U.S.;
  • Travel outside of the U.S.; and
  • Eventually apply for citizenship.

A person must submit an application with appropriate evidence to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. As part of that evidence, they must obtain an appropriate dependency order through state court proceedings. Once the SIJS application is processed, the person must submit a green card application when visas are available.

If a person is in immigration removal proceedings, they must request that their case be closed or continued while they wait for the SIJS application to process.

Not in MN, ND or SD? is a searchable online directory of over 1,000 free or low-cost nonprofit immigration legal services providers in all 50 states.
Outside the U.S.?

The UN Refugee Agency provides information and legal advice to stateless people through its partners in many countries around the world.