New rules from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will now open up the pool of people who are now eligible for "special immigrant juvenile" (SIJ) status.
Immigration authorities in the U.S. released the new policies on Monday, marking over a decade of efforts to make the rule changes after they were proposed years ago. It is now expected that the pathway to obtaining a green card for immigrant minors who have experienced neglect or child abuse will be easier, as Reuters reported.
The program was created in 1990 and focuses on immigrants under 21 who are seeking to apply for permanent residency in the United States. If a court determines that returning to their home country is unsafe and they need protection, immigrants in this category could be eligible for the SIJ program.
Critics say that the program makes it too easy to obtain a green card and would encourage more migration. USCIS increased requests for documentation under the Trump administration, and many petitions from applicants were denied if they were over 18-years-old because state family courts determined they didn't have jurisdiction over the cases.
USCIS Director Ur Jaddou said in a statement, "These policies will provide humanitarian protection to vulnerable young people for whom a juvenile court has determined that it is in their best interest to remain in the United States."