As the backlog of immigration cases continues to grow, immigrants applying for green cards as children may no longer meet the criteria of a child. Referred to as aging out, children become ineligible to receive green cards due to their age. Congress enacted the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) in 2002, which expanded the age restrictions for applicants turning 21 by allowing them to maintain their eligibility and proceed with their cases.
Children and Green Card Eligibility
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a child is an unmarried person aged 21 years or younger. To apply for a green card or lawful permanent resident status, you must be a child as defined by the INA. The CSPA protects those who turn 21 while their applications are under review. The CSPA applies to children in different situations, including:
- Adopted children aged 16 or younger at the time of their adoption
- Natural-born children of married parents
- Natural-born children of unmarried parents, with the father proving the parent-child relationship
- Stepchildren if the parents are still married and if the child was aged 18 or younger at the time of the marriage
Bringing Children to the United States
Prior to your child’s 21st birthday, you must file Form I-130 to bring your unmarried child under the age of 21 to the United States. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must receive your application prior to the day before the child’s 21st birthday to receive preferential consideration as an immediate relative. The distinction is important because immediate relatives are not subject to annual green card limits.
Any child who marries before they turn 21 is no longer considered an immediate relative and is likely to wait much longer for a green card. If a married child under 21 divorces or becomes widowed, you can notify the USCIS and have their visa petition amended accordingly, making them an immediate relative.
The CSPA freezes the age of children born to green card holders provided they did not receive a final decision on their visa application as of August 6, 2002, when the CSPA was enacted. Individuals outside the United States should file form I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition. In the United States, they will submit Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Additional CSPA Protections
In addition to immediate relatives, the CSPA offers protections to other categories of foreign nationals who turn 21 while their application is pending. They include:
- Immediate relatives
- Derivative asylees and refugees
- Employment-based preference derivative applicants
- Family-sponsored principal applicants and derivative applicants
- Violence Against Women Act self-petitioners and derivative applicants
To learn more about the CSPA and access the necessary forms to begin your application, visit the USCIS website and contact a Philadelphia immigration lawyer.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Clients Throughout the Green Card Process
If you want to know more about the CSPA and if it applies to your case, contact a Philadelphia immigration lawyer at Surin & Griffin, P.C. With experience handling complex immigration matters, we can help with your visa, appeals, or removal concerns. Call us at 215-925-4435 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.