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 applies only to the following people:
Immediate relatives; 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.