The Child Status Protection Act

When a parent is in the process of petitioning for a child, the child turning 21 years old can be a cause for concern. However, there are some legal protections under federal immigration law.

Enacted in 2002, the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) helps young individuals who became 21 of age prior to getting their green cards approved by USCIS and the U.S. Department of State (DOS). According to U.S. immigration law, a child is considered an unmarried individual who is under 21 years of age.

Since the green card waitlist—as well as standard processing times—can lead to lengthy delays, a child who files a petition before their 21st birthday could “age out” after turning 21 prior to the petition’s approval. When a child ages out, they must either wait longer to be approved for a green card or may even lose eligibility.

Although the CSPA doesn’t change the definition of a child, it provides a method for calculating a person’s age to determine if they meet the definition of a child for immigration reasons. This calculated age is known as the child’s “CSPA age,” enabling certain people who “age out” to remain classified as a child after their 21st birthday.

The following individuals are eligible under CSPA:

  • Immediate relatives
  • Family-sponsored preference principal/derivative applicants
  • Employment-based preference derivative applicants
  • Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) derivative applicants
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners and derivative applicants
  • Derivative asylees and refugees

U.S. citizens who wish to bring their kids to permanently live in the U.S. should file Form I-130 before the child marries or turns 21 to avoid long waits. This ensures these children are classified as “immediate relatives” under the federal definition and do not wait for an available immigrant visa.

Children of green card holders are not considered “immediate relatives” under the federal definition and as a result they have to wait for a visa to become available. The CSPA can help many children to reduce wait times.

If you are interested in petitioning for your child, contact Salas Law to schedule a consultation today. Se habla español.

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