What Is the Child Status Protection Act?

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), individuals younger than the age of 21 are “children.” They qualify for immigration statuses under their parents’ citizenship statuses, visas, and green cards. Under old laws, dependents needed to secure their own permanent resident status before turning 21 and aging out of the “child” status eligibility protections. The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) gives child beneficiaries some residency wiggle room that did not previously exist.

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What Does the Child Status Protection Act Do?

The immigration process is often a lengthy one filled with multi-step processing and a long waiting list. Before the U.S. passed the CSPA, children would age out of their residency benefits before they received their permanent residency statuses even though their parent(s) or other applicable parties petitioned for them years before. As adults older than age 21, they would no longer qualify for the same residency eligibility terms. While they could apply again, many different circumstances (including marriage) might push an applicant back to square one in an even longer waiting list of applicants.

The CSPA allows petitioners (immediate relatives) to effectively freeze the age of a beneficiary (the child) giving him or her a longer period for approval. The act cuts out the penalty for turning 21 as long as a petitioner filed form I-130 before the beneficiary turned 21. Under the CSPA, the U.S. may approve applications several years after the initial filing, regardless of a beneficiary’s current age.

Qualifying for CSPA Benefits

To qualify for a frozen status, the petitioners must have filed the visa petition on or after August 6, 2002; the beneficiary must not have received a final decision before August 6, 2002; and, the approved beneficiary must pursue permanent residency within a year of the visa’s availability status. A beneficiary and/or petitioner can file form I-824 (the Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition), I-485 (the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), or DS-230 (the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration) to prove he or she is seeking permanent residency.

Citizenship and the CSPA

Some children qualify for automatic citizenship before their 21st birthday, which can save time and paperwork. Your child may qualify for automatic citizenship after birth if:

  • The child was younger than 18 on February 27, 2001 and one parent who has legal and physical custody of the child is a U.S. citizen.
  • The child was younger than 18 at any point between December 24, 1952 and February 26, 2001; the child had a green card; and, both parents or one parent in legal and physical custody of the child naturalized before the child reached the age of 18.
  • A U.S. citizen adopted the child and the adoption meets current citizenship eligibility

In some cases, automatic citizenship can eliminate the need for CSPA protections and the lengthy residency application process. Work with a local immigration attorney to determine if your child qualifies for automatic citizenship or if you need to pursue a form I-130 application before your child ages out and loses the protections of the CSPA.

If your family is in the process of immigrating to the U.S. or planning a child’s immigration, keep the benefits of the CSPA in mind. With the right immigration strategy, a child may continue to qualify for child-related permanent residency application benefits long after he or she turns 21. Call the Law Offices of David A. Breston today for more information.

David Breston

David Breston has represented over 3,000 clients charged with Federal, State, and juvenile crimes in Texas and is a native Houstonian. Mr. Breston is a proud member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Harris County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Throughout his years as an experienced criminal defense lawyer, he has taught seminars at Princeton and helped law students with their GMAT test review.

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