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How to prevent “aging out” of green card eligibility

Immigration law in the United States allows children who are unmarried and come to the U.S. before the age of 21 to apply for lawful permanent resident status. But, because of backlogs in processing, someone can easily “age out” if they reach their 21st birthday before the government accepts their application.

The Child Status Protection Act protects applicants from this problem by “freezing” their age for the purposes of their application. So, someone can still be considered a child while their application is pending. But, only certain applicants qualify for this protection.

Who qualifies for CSPA protection?

Someone can use a CSPA petition to protect their “child” status if their green card application is based on being:

  • The immediate relative of a U.S. citizen
  • A Violence Against Women Act applicant
  • A refugee or asylee
  • An employment-based immigrant

They also must have a pending application for permanent residence filed on or after August 6, 2002.

How does the process work?

A successful CSPA petition puts someone’s age on hold while immigration services process their green card application. If an immediate relative files a Form I-130 petition on behalf of a child, there are two ways this plays out:

  • If the relative is a citizen of the United States, the child’s age would freeze on the date they file the CSPA petition.
  • If the relative is a permanent resident, the child’s age freezes on the date of the relative’s naturalization (if it was before the child turned 21).

To take advantage of age freezing provisions, timing is everything. An experienced immigration attorney can help those who may qualify for CSPA protection navigate this process.

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