On Thursday, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released an update on its policy manual clarifying how they will apply the extraordinary circumstances exception under the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA).
To give a little background on CSPA and why it is important, it may be noted that over 250,000 children of long-term visa holders who are raised and educated in the United States face self-deportation as they age out of the green card line once they turn 21.
A bipartisan bill, called America’s Children Act, aims to protect some beneficiaries from losing their eligibility for immigrant visas and adjustment of status because they age out during the immigration process and no longer qualify as a child for immigration purposes.
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The USCIS said in its update: “Under the policy guidance in effect before Feb 14, 2023, some noncitizens may not have applied to adjust their status because a visa was not available to calculate CSPA age under the prior policy or the noncitizen’s CSPA age would have been calculated to be over 21 years old.
“If these noncitizens apply to adjust their status under the new policy issued on Feb 14, they may not be able to meet the 1-year sought to acquire requirement. However, noncitizens who do not meet this requirement may still benefit from the CSPA if they can establish that their failure to meet the requirement was the result of extraordinary circumstances.”
On why this update is significant, Dip Patel, founder, Improve the Dream, a youth organization advocating for documented dreamers says, “This was an important policy change earlier this year. While it impacts a small number of children of long-term visa holders, it is a life changing policy change for those it helps.”
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Explaining the clarification, by USCIS, Patel says, “The clarification was the original intent behind the CSPA policy update earlier this year. I am glad to see this important clarification which likely impacts the majority of people who would have qualified for it.”
“It is important to allow the aged-out children to retain their original priority date. Children who are derivative beneficiaries of family and employment-based petitions are losing their priority date and are being required to get back in line because USCIS has adopted a narrow interpretation of the 2002 Child Status Protection Act which allows for retention if a subsequent petition is filed by the original petitioner,” he added.
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Some of the suggestions advocates offer to help the situation is USCIS adding another category to compelling circumstances that defines “aging out” as a compelling circumstance for children of visa holders raised in the United States.
Patel says, “We hope this definition of compelling circumstances can be as broad as possible to protect all children from aging out, including those whose parents did not have a pending green card application.”