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Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) defines a child as a person who is both unmarried and under 21 years old. If someone applies for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status as a child but turns 21 before being approved for LPR status (also known as getting a Green Card), that person can no longer be considered a child for immigration purposes. This situation is commonly referred to as “aging out” and often means that these applicants would have to file a new petition or application, wait even longer to get a Green Card, or may no longer be eligible for a Green Card.

Congress recognized that many children were aging out due to large USCIS processing backlogs, so it enacted the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) to protect certain children from aging out. The CSPA went into effect on August 6, 2002.

CSPA does not change the definition of a child. Instead, CSPA provides a method for calculating a person’s age to see if they meet the definition of a child for immigration purposes. The calculated age is the child’s “CSPA age.” This allows some people to remain classified as children beyond their 21st birthday. However, CSPA does not change the requirement that you must be unmarried in order to remain eligible for classification as a child.

CSPA applies only to the following people:

  • Immediate relatives (including derivatives of widow(er)s);
  • Family-sponsored preference principal applicants and derivative applicants;
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners and derivative applicants;
  • Employment-based preference derivative applicants;
  • Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) derivative applicants;
  • Derivative refugees; and
  • Derivative asylees.


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