Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)
The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) amended the Immigration Nationality Act (INA) by changing who qualifies as a child for purposes of immigrant. This permits certain beneficiaries (see the glossary for a definition of the term “beneficiary”) to retain classification as a “child,” even if he or she has reached the age of 21.
A “child” is defined as an individual who is unmarried and under the age of 21. Before CSPA took effect on August 6, 2002, a beneficiary who turned 21 at any time prior to receiving permanent residence could not be considered a child for immigration purposes. This situation is described as “aging out.” Congress recognized that many beneficiaries were aging out because of large backlogs and long processing times for visa petitions. CSPA is designed to protect a beneficiary’s immigration classification as a child when he or she ages out due to excessive processing times. CSPA can protect “child” status for family-based immigrants, employment-based immigrants, and some humanitarian program immigrants (refugees, asylees, VAWA).
How to Qualify for CSPA
Note: Individuals may be eligible to apply for permanent residence under CSPA after 1 year of a visa becoming available if all of the following are true:
CSPA provides another type of relief referred to as the “opt-out.” This is very limited in scope. If a permanent resident petitioner filed a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for an unmarried son/daughter and then the petitioner naturalized, the beneficiary can choose to remain in the second preference classification instead of automatically converting to a 1st preference classification. The reason that this may be beneficial is that sometimes the waiting time for the second preference visa is shorter than the waiting time for the first preference visa. If this situation applies, check the visa bulletin to see if the opt-out may be helpful. If the beneficiary wants to opt-out, he or she must make a request in writing to USCIS.
Refugee and Asylee Protections
CSPA provides protections for refugee and asylee children who aged out on or after August 6, 2002. The child must remain unmarried to benefit from CSPA protection.
The child’s age is determined based on the time the parent’s Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, or Form I-590, Registration for Classification as a Refugee, was filed. After August 6, 2002, as long as the child was unmarried and under 21 at the time either of these forms was filed, and the child was listed on the Form I-589 or I-590, the child will remain a “child” regardless of age and can continue adjustment of status or consular processing on that basis.
Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, and Section 209 Adjustment
For Forms I-730 or I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence and Adjust Status, (under Section 209) that were pending on or after August 6, 2002, the child’s age is determined by using the age on the date the principal filed Form I-589 or Form I-590, as long as the child was unmarried and under 21 at that time and remains unmarried.
Last Reviewed/Updated: 03/30/2011