Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)

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The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) is an act amended in 2002 to facilitate young people who turned 21 years old before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) approved their green card applications. The CSPA amends the Immigration and Nationality Act by permitting an applicant for certain benefits to retain classification as a “child” under the Act, even if they have reached the age of 21.

Prior to CSPA, once a child turned 21 years of age, that child "aged-out" and was no longer able to immigrate (or adjust status) along with their family. The CSPA eliminates this problem by "freezing the age" of immediate relative children when their petitioning U.S. citizen parent submits a visa petition on their behalf. The CSPA uses a mathematical formula which allows the amount of time that a visa petition was pending to be subtracted from a child's age.

The CSPA was enacted to respond to the problems caused by the length of the delays on the green card application waitlist and the USCIS and DOS average processing times. For these long delays not to affect petitioners’ eligibility for a green card, the CSPA creates a legal fiction that allows the petitioner to see their age freeze at 21.

[Last updated in November of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]