Navigating the CSPA Application: What You Need to Know


Applying for permanent residence status is rarely easy, even when all of your documents are in order—the process is also lengthy, sometimes it takes months for an application to go through review. While minors, children under 21, have some protections this changes once they’re adults. 

Deportation can be a real threat, and this is where the Child Status Protection ACT (CSPA) comes in. To guarantee that the now adult child has protections, avoiding mistakes with CSPA applications is essential. To help the petition process move along a little more smoothly, let’s go over what you should know about the CSPA Act and the application process.

What is the Child Status Protection Act

The Child Status Protection Act was enacted in 2002 and is designed to provide protections to unmarried “children” who legally immigrated to the United States before their 21st birthday. 

The Act’s primary purpose is to prevent minors from aging out of the system while they’re waiting for visa approval. Basically, the Act acknowledges the immigration process often takes too long for older minors who often turn 21 while waiting for their visas.

The Act essentially pauses the child’s age until their application is approved. However, the Child Status Protection Act doesn’t change the requirements outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). When the application is filled out, the child must be under 21 and unmarried. If the minor is married and still under the age of 21, the CSPA doesn’t apply to them, and this is a common mistake on CSPA application forms.

So, how does the Act temporarily pause the applicant’s age? The CSPA gives applicants methods for calculating the minor’s age. This “new” age only applies for immigration purposes and can’t be used to obtain other documents.

 For example, you can’t use a CSPA age to enroll the individual in school or a government-supported program. For all other purposes, the applicant uses their true age.

Eligibility Requirements for CSPA Approval

Since minors can’t legally file for immigration status, the child must have someone apply for them. If you’re wondering about minors who enter the United States without parents or a legal guardian, the courts will appoint someone to act in the minor’s best interests. This process can include filling out the CSPA application. 

So, who else meets CSPA requirements?

  • Immediate relatives: This can include parents, grandparents, adult siblings, aunts, and uncles.
  • Family-sponsored individuals: This is usually someone in the U.S. with close ties to the minor’s family. For example, if a child is sent to the U.S. without their parents but with their family’s expectation of being cared for by the family-sponsored individual. This individual is usually listed as the child’s legal guardian.
  • Children immigrating to the U.S. under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): The adult with the VAWA visa can fill out the CSPA application for the minor. If the minor holds a VAMA visa and is getting ready to age out of the immigration system, they can submit the form with assistance from a court-appointed guardian.

Others who typically qualify for child status protection can include those with an employment-based or diversity immigrant visa. Some refugees and asylum seekers also qualify for child protection status. A quick tip is to check with current immigration laws since refugee and asylum eligibility requirements can change. 

The reason changes can occur in laws regarding refugee and asylum status is due to the constantly changing geo-political landscape. Countries are often added or removed from the list and this can affect who is allowed to seek refugee or asylum status.

If you have questions about the status of your visa, it’s usually best to consult with an immigration attorney.

Qualifications for CSPA

Not only does the applicant’s parents or guardian often need to meet CSPA eligibility requirements, but so does the minor. The minor must have either a pending or an approved visa petition (Form I-130). This is the petition requesting permanent resident status in the United States. 

The applicant must not have received a final decision on their application status before August 6th, 2002. This is the date the Child Safety Protection Act became law. You also can’t adjust (make any changes) your application before the previously mentioned date. In other words, all information must be correct. If there’s an error, the application is typically automatically declined.

A final eligibility requirement is that the minor must begin the process to become a permanent resident within one year of receiving their visa.

How a Minor’s Age is Calculated

Since the purpose of the Child Status Protection Act is to prevent minors from aging out of the immigration system while their visa applications are being processed, the minor’s age is essentially frozen. 

However, you can’t just pick an age at random, the Act allows applicants to use a specific process. Which process is used depends on who is filling out the application:

  • If the minor’s immediate relative is the one filling out Form I-130, remember this is for permanent residence status, and naturalizes before the minor turns 21, the applicant’s age is paused at the date their relative is naturalized. So, if the minor is 17 when their relative becomes a naturalized citizen, this is the minor’s age throughout the process.
  • When the immediate relative is a U.S. citizen, meaning they’ve already gone through the naturalization process, the minor’s age is frozen on the date Form I-130 is submitted.

As you can see, filing dates are important to keep in mind here. If the minor has already aged out of the immigration system, meaning they’re 21, CSPA rules don’t apply. As a legal adult, the former minor must go through the standard immigration process which may mean returning to their home country and applying for a visa.

What if the immediate relatives are natural-born U.S. citizens? The visa process may be different depending on the relatives’ relationship with the minor. Children of U.S. citizens can skip the immigration process. Their parents’ citizenship status extends automatically to the minor. For more distant relatives like siblings, the minor will probably need to go through the immigration process.

As illustrated, applying for a visa under CSPA can be complicated, and you don’t want to make mistakes. To help ensure a smooth process, contact an immigration attorney.

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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