Unaccompanied Children and Asylum Seekers Ages 14-17

The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) sees a future where the United States welcomes individuals fleeing violence. We work alongside our members to make this vision a reality. This page has information for ASAP members who are 14-17 years old, including unaccompanied children.

ASAP Membership

As a 14-17 year old ASAP member, you will receive text message updates about your membership and related topics. However, most of our legal updates and resources are currently shared only with adult members, because ASAP mostly works with adults. We will do our best to reach out to you again if this changes. If you are 14-17 years old, you can use your ASAP membership card to apply for a work permit and social security number. Or, a parent can use their own ASAP membership card to apply for a work permit for you. This page has information about applying for a work permit. 

Please note that your membership does not mean that ASAP is your lawyer. We encourage all of our members to find an immigration lawyer if possible.

If you are not yet a member of ASAP, you can apply! Asylum seekers and unaccompanied children aged 14-17 who believe in ASAP’s mission (as stated above) can apply to become ASAP members. This page has information about how to apply for membership. If you are under 14 years old, you will have to wait until you turn 14 to apply for ASAP membership.

Legal Resources

These resources are for informational purposes only. Please consult with an attorney for your specific case.

Some asylum seekers under 18 years old are designated as “unaccompanied children” by the U.S. government. Others are not. The way to fight your immigration case is different depending on whether or not the U.S. government considers you an unaccompanied child.

How do I know if I am considered an “unaccompanied child” for my immigration case?

If you crossed the Mexico-U.S. border without a parent or you were separated from your parent after crossing the border, you were likely designated as an “unaccompanied child” by the U.S. government. Unaccompanied children are sometimes also called “UACs” or “unaccompanied minors.”

You were probably then placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). You should have then been released to a sponsor (either a parent or another family member, relative, or friend) who is now taking care of you. Your parent or sponsor is responsible for your well-being and for helping you with your immigration case until you turn 18.

If I am NOT an “unaccompanied child,” how do I fight my case?

If you do not fit the description above and are not considered an unaccompanied child by the U.S. government, we recommend that you talk to a parent, a guardian, or a lawyer about your immigration case. See ASAP’s legal help page for information about how to find a lawyer.

If I AM an “unaccompanied child,” how do I fight my case?

Even though you are in the care of a parent or an adult sponsor, it is important that you remember, especially if your sponsor is not your parent, that the immigration case is your case and that you should try to talk to a lawyer about your case as soon as possible.

See ASAP’s legal help page for information about how to find a lawyer if you do not yet have one. We also recommend that you contact the closest office of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a nationwide organization focused only on representing unaccompanied children.

We have also compiled some additional legal information that may be helpful for you and your immigration case. You will find the following information below:

How to find out if you have an upcoming immigration court date

You can find out if you have an immigration court date by either calling the immigration court hotline 1-800-898-7180 and entering your A number or going to this government website and entering your A number. You will find your next court hearing, the name of the immigration court you have to go to, and the name of the judge that has your case.  This infographic has more details on how to call the immigration court hotline.

It is very important to attend all your immigration court hearings!

How to change your address if you move

Once you are reunited with a sponsor it is important that you change your address with the immigration court and with the immigration agency USCIS each time you move.

  • To change your address with the immigration court, please go to this government website and fill out form E-33 for the appropriate court you are scheduled to attend. If you do not know which court, please refer to the above information about how to know if you have an upcoming court date.
  • To change your address with USCIS, please go to this government website and fill out form AR-11 online.
  • If you have moved very far, you may also need to make a request to change your immigration court to another location. This is called a “motion to change venue.”

See this infographic for more information. The infographic was made for adult asylum seekers, but the same steps with the immigration court and USCIS apply for unaccompanied children. If you need help with changing your address, please contact an attorney.

Some forms of immigration relief for unaccompanied children

  • Asylum: Asylum is granted to people who are afraid of returning to their home country and who have been persecuted for either their race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Please talk to an attorney to see if you qualify for this relief.
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status: Special immigrant juvenile status is given to minors who have either been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents. This determination is made by the state court where you live so it is very important that you speak to an attorney before your 18th birthday to see if you qualify for this relief.
  • Family Petition: A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can only petition for certain members of their family. If you have a parent or stepparent who is either a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, please contact a lawyer to see if you qualify for this type of relief.
  • U visa: U visas are granted if you or a parent has been a victim of certain qualifying crimes in the U.S. If you or your parent have been a victim of a crime in the U.S., please discuss with an attorney to see if you are eligible for this type of relief.
  • T visa: T visas are granted if the minor was a victim of human trafficking. Broadly speaking, you were a victim of human trafficking if you were forced to enter the U.S. against your will or were brought to the U.S. under false pretenses. Please speak to a lawyer if you think you may have been a victim of human trafficking to determine if you qualify for a T visa.

Please remember that these are the most common forms of relief for unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings, but it is not a complete list. The most important thing to remember is that you should discuss your case with an immigration attorney to determine if you are eligible for relief before the immigration court or USCIS.

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