Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)

The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) was enacted in order to keep immigrant families intact despite family-based and employment-based waiting times which can be long. It is meant to insure that sons and daughters can immigrate to the US together with their parents.

Prior to CSPA, once a child turned 21 years of age, he or she “aged-out” and was no longer able to immigrate (or adjust status) along with his or her parents. CSPA “freezes the age” of immediate relative children when their petitioning U.S. citizen parent submits a visa petition on their behalf; when a petitioning permanent resident parent naturalizes; or when a married son or daughter who has been petitioned by a U.S. citizen parent becomes divorced or widowed.

You can stay up-to-date with the waiting times in the Visa Bulletin by subscribing to our Free E-Mail Newsletter. Also, see our Coronavirus – Immigration Updates page.

CSPA also creates a mathematical formula which allows the amount of time that a visa petition was pending to be subtracted from a child’s age at the time that the priority date becomes current.

 

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What happens if a child “ages-out” despite the mathematical formula?
Again, the Child Status Protection Act provides relief for “aged-out” children in the form of the “automatic conversion” clause. However, on June 9, 2014, the Supreme Court deferred to the restrictive definition of this clause which was promulgated by the BIA.

CSPA also contains an “opt-out” clause which permits unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizen to choose between the family-based 1st and 2B preference categories depending on which category allows them to reunite with their parents faster.

CSPA is applicable not only to persons who were sponsored for lawful permanent residence after the law Child Status Protection Act took effect, but to many people who were sponsored for green cards prior to August 6, 2002.

On February 14, 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued a decision which expanded the capacity of CSPA to keep immigrant families together. See our blog post
CSPA: Rodriguez Tovar Decision Could Help Keep Families Together

Q1. What is the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)?

A. On August 6, 2002, President Bush signed the Child Status Protection Act into law. It will help prevent negative immigration consequences from occurring when a child turns 21 years of age before the INS or the State Department processes his application for permanent residence.

Q2. When did CSPA become effective?

A. It became effective as soon as it was signed into law on August 6, 2002.

Q3. Will the law apply to applications for permanent residence based on family-based petitions, employment-based categories and the visa lottery?

A. It applies to applications in all three categories.

 

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Q4. What is the object of the law?

A. An unmarried child under 21 years of age who is eligible for permanent residence is entitled to certain benefits. For example, if his parent(s) are U.S. citizens, the child is considered an “immediate relative” and may obtain a green card without any numerical limitations. However, once he becomes 21 years of age, he no longer qualifies as an immediate relative, and must wait years to become a green card holder.

Similarly, a child who is immigrating along with his parents is no longer entitled to do so once he turns 21 years of age. When a child turns 21, and loses immigration benefits, this is commonly known as “aging-out”. The law seeks to prevent the unnecessary separation of parents and children due to aging-out.

Q5. Can a son or daughter over 21 years of age qualify as an immediate relative?

A. Yes. The following examples may be helpful:

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