Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)

What is the Child Status Protection Act?

The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) modifies and legally defines a “child” for the purposes of immigration, and provides for unmarried beneficiaries who may have applied for resident status before reaching age 21, but have reached the age of 21 before the application is fully processed. (A beneficiary is someone who is applying for immigration who is sponsored, in this case, by a parent.)

The CSPA took effect on August 6, 2002. Prior to that, any beneficiary who reached the age of 21 prior to receiving permanent residency could not be considered legally to be a “child”. Because there are often long backlogs in the time it takes for residency to be processed, the United States Congress modified the legal age of a child to account for these factors.

According to the CSPA, the age of the beneficiary who is applying on the basis of parental status now freezes at the time of filing, so that applicants can be considered under “child” classification even if they have turned 21 while waiting for the application to be processed.

Aging Out and Freezing the Age

Waiting times for processing beneficiary status for family-based and employment-based immigrants can sometimes take several years. The CSPA keeps families united during this time. Previously, when a child turned 21 before receiving resident status, this was known as “aging out”, and the beneficiary was no longer eligible for residency status based upon the classification of “child” status. By “freezing the age” of the beneficiary at the time of filing, the beneficiary is legally protected against aging out, and can be regarded as a child for the purposes of immigration.

Who is eligible?

The CSPA generally protects the child classification status for the beneficiaries of immigrant families, employment-based immigrants, as well as some immigrants who petition for visas on the basis of humanitarian programs.

  • Beneficiaries who apply on or after August 6, 2002 and who have not had a prior decision on adjustment of status or an immigrant visa before that date are eligible.
  • Beneficiaries must seek to acquire permanent residence within 1 year of the visa becoming available.
What if a year has passed since the visa became available?

Beneficiaries may still be eligible to apply in this instance with child classification if the following conditions exist:

  • The visa petition of which they are a beneficiary was approved prior to August 6, 2002;
  • No final decision had been reached on the visa petition prior to August 6, 2002;
  • The visa became available on or after August 7, 2001; and
  • All other eligibility criteria for CSPA are met.

The CSPA is a common-sense way of keeping families united, and protecting beneficiaries who applied while under the age of 21 from aging out, so that they can acquire resident visas classified as a child even if they have reached the age of 21.


Cases that implicate the Child Protection Status Act can be very complicated. There are a number of procedural and material requirements for obtaining these immigration benefits, and navigating through the process can be very daunting and time-consuming. For this reason, it is advisable to obtain the advice and assistance of a qualified immigration law attorney to handle the matter.

Austin, Texas immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm has experience assisting individuals in CPSA issues. Ms. Lyttle is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, and can communicate directly with clients and their family members directly in these languages, as well as understand documents in these languages.

Furthermore, because immigration law is a federal, and not state, matter, the Lyttle Law Firm can assist you even if you are not a resident of Texas. If you need a competent immigration attorney to handle your Child Protection Status Act application, contact the Lyttle Law Firm, and you will be able to speak to a qualified immigration attorney to get the advice and assistance you need. An Austin immigration lawyer experienced in all aspects of the CPSA issue can make the process more manageable, as well as provide relevant context pertaining to how the matter is proceeding and what you can reasonably expect in terms of both time frame and success in obtaining the desired immigration benefit.