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What Happens if a Child Ages Out Before Receiving a Green Card?

The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) helps some green card applicants who risk aging out of eligibility before receiving their immigrant visas. However, applying the provisions of this law can be challenging, and the law may not help in every situation.

If you or your child are likely to turn 21 before receiving a green card, it is a good idea to speak to an experienced immigration lawyer who can help you develop the best strategy for the situation and apply for available forms of relief. Ignoring the problem could lead to loss of immigration status and difficulties with future immigration efforts.  

Sons and Daughters Aren’t Children Under the Law

The problem for many prospective immigrants is that the laws treat them very differently after they turn 21. Individuals under the age of 21 are considered children, and they can often obtain derivative visas along with their parents. Once they reach the age of 21, they become adults classified as “sons and daughters” for family-based immigration. At the very least, they drop to a lower preference category for visa availability, which can extend their wait for a green card by several years. Many of the applicants who turn 21 can entirely lose their eligibility for an immigrant visa and green card.

This age distinction becomes grossly unfair when delays in processing applications and waits for visas take so long that a child ages into an adult during the process. Even when everyone follows all the rules,  an eligible immigrant may be denied the opportunity to live and work in the U.S. because of delays that are out of their control.  

How CSPA Can Help

The CSPA provides a method for calculating an applicant’s age in a way that may allow them to continue to remain eligible for status as a “child” under immigration laws. The applicant’s age calculated under CSPA guidelines is often referred to as their “CSPA age.” All applicants must still be unmarried to qualify for eligibility for “child” status regardless of their age.

CSPA provisions work differently for applicants in different situations. For instance, if a U.S. citizen parent files an immigration petition for a child, the child’s age effectively freezes on the filing date. If a green card holder files a petition for a child and then becomes a citizen before the child turns 21, then the beneficiary date freezes on the naturalization date.

For applicants in family preference categories instead of immediate relative categories, CSPA essentially subtracts the time a visa petition remained pending from the applicant’s biological age so that applicant is not unfairly penalized for the time it takes for immigration officials to process the petition.

Eligibility for CSPA

Individuals eligible for age-relief through CSPA include applicants applying for a visa as:

  • Immediate relatives
  • Family preference categories
  • Violence Against Women Act petitioners
  • Derivative applicants of employment-based applicants
  • Diversity applicants
  • Refugees and asylees

An immigration attorney could review your situation and determine how to take advantage of CSPA or other provisions.

American Dream®™ Law Office Helps with Green Cards

Green cards allow for some wonderful opportunities for your family, but the process of obtaining an immigrant visa and getting your green card can be frustrating and confusing at the very least. The experienced team at American Dream®™ Law Office knows what is at stake. We dedicate our efforts to finding the best means of reaching your goals.

For help with a child’s green card or any other immigration issue, contact us for a confidential consultation today.

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