Small Change in the Child Status Protection Act Will Have Significant Impact on Immigrant Families

On February 14, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) made a small change in the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) that will have a significant impact on the lives of many immigrant families.

To understand how this works, take the example of an employer sponsoring a foreign national for lawful permanent resident status - the foreign national’s spouse and children, under the age of 21, are also eligible to participate in the process to receive residency. However, the application process can take years, and in many cases, children have turned 21 during the process and, as a result, have been left behind.

Congress passed the CSPA in 2001 to allow a child’s age to be “frozen” if he or she is at a certain point in the process before their 21st birthday. This change helped, but not enough for those who may have waited over a decade before reaching the protection process. Foreign nationals require visas for lawful permanent resident status, and there are limited visas available each year. Visas are distributed based on policy preferences for or against certain nationalities coming to the U.S., which allows many foreign nationals to provisionally live and work in the U.S. but includes no assurances of when their lawful permanent residence process might be approved, or whether it will be approved in time to support their children.

In 2015, the State Department (responsible for calculating how long foreign nationals must wait for visas) changed the way it calculates the allowance of foreign nationals to file required paperwork in order to trigger CSPA protections. This year, USCIS adjusted its policy to apply the Act to these specific cases.

With this small change in the CSPA, if you file I-485 applications for yourself and your family members based on the “Dates for Filing” chart in the Visa Bulletin, instead of the “Final Action Date” chart, USCIS will calculate your child’s age based on the Dates for Filing Chart for CSPA protections, even if your priority date does not become current before your child’s 21st birthday.

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