What is the Child Status Protection Act?
Under US immigration laws, minor children of US citizens and permanent residents receive certain benefits not available to married and adult children. To qualify for these benefits, the children must be under 21 years of age and may not be married. One of the problems that developed in determining minor child eligibility was how to handle situations in which the child turned 21 and lost his or her minor status between the time the petition was filed and the time it took to process it. The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) attempts to offer a solution for this situation.
Under the CSPA, the age of children of US citizens seeking immigrant visas is computed on the date the petition was filed with the USCIS. The purpose of the Act was to ensure visa applicants were not punished because of the delays in processing immigrant visa petitions. For example, if the parent submitted the petition while the child was 20 years old, but the child then turned 21 before the USCIS has approved the petition, the child's status would be adjusted to that of a minor child once the USCIS approves the petition. Thus, the child would not lose his or her minor status for the purposes of immigration.
The CSPA also addresses issues of legal permanent resident parents who become naturalized citizens after petitioning for minor children to join them in the US. In these cases, if the parent petitions for the child before he or she turns 21 and then the parent becomes a naturalized US citizen, the child will receive priority status as an immediate relative - even if the child has since turned 21. Under US immigration laws, spouses and minor children of US citizens receive priority for family-based immigration visas. This means a naturalized US citizen's minor children do not have to wait for a visa number to become available. Rather, once the parent's petition is approved, the child will be able to apply for an immigrant visa.
Other provisions of the CSPA discuss:
- The determination of minor child status for refugee and asylee petitioners
- The determination of minor child status for legal permanent resident petitioners
- The determination of minor child status for Diversity Visa Lottery petitioners
- The treatment of married minor children of US citizens who subsequently divorce
The CSPA only applies to children of US citizens and legal permanent residents and children filing for derivative status based on family-based or employment-based immigration visas filed by a parent. The CSPA does not apply to nonimmigrant visas, including V visas (for spouses and children of permanent legal residents to travel to the US and remain in the country while their immigrant visas are processed) and K visas (for the children of fiancé(e)'s of US citizens).
To learn more about the Child Status Protection Act and whether you are entitled to any benefits under it, contact a knowledgeable immigration attorney in your area.
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