The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a significant policy update on February 14, 2023, concerning the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). This act allows children who have aged out—reached 21 years old—to maintain eligibility for certain immigration benefits under particular conditions. Recently, the USCIS provided further clarification on August 24, 2023, about how it would apply the “extraordinary circumstances” exception under the CSPA. This article aims to demystify the new guidelines and help immigrant families understand what they mean for them.
Background on CSPA
Before diving into the new changes, it’s crucial to understand the foundation of the Child Status Protection Act. CSPA allows the “freezing” of a child’s age at the time when an initial application for certain immigration benefits, like an adjustment of status to permanent residence, is filed. The primary source of contention has often been how to calculate the child’s age for eligibility under CSPA.
The February 14 Policy Change
Initially, the USCIS used the Final Action Dates chart from the Visa Bulletin to calculate the age for CSPA purposes. However, the February 14 policy update switched this to the Dates for Filing chart. The shift was widely celebrated because it broadened the scope of children who could benefit from CSPA’s relief.
The August 24 Clarification
Building upon the February policy change, USCIS offered additional clarifications. The update accomplishes three main points:
- Extraordinary Circumstances: USCIS will now consider the February 14 change as an extraordinary circumstance, excusing an applicant’s failure to meet the “sought to acquire” requirement under CSPA.
- Excusable Failures: If a child didn’t apply to adjust their status due to prior policy limitations, they may still be eligible for CSPA benefits under the new guidelines.
- Pending Applications: Those with applications pending on February 14 can consider themselves to have met the “sought to acquire” requirement if they applied within a year of a visa becoming available based on the Final Action Dates chart.
Implications for Immigrant Families
The August 24 clarification further relaxes the criteria for eligibility under CSPA. Families who were initially discouraged due to prior policy constraints may find themselves newly eligible for immigration benefits.
How to Move Forward
If you find yourself affected by these updates, consulting an experienced immigration attorney is critical. Specifically, if your application was denied under the old policy, you may file a Notice of Appeal or Motion, Form I-290B, within 30 days of the decision. USCIS may, at its discretion, forgive a late filing if you can prove that the delay was beyond your control.
USCIS’s new guidelines have further expanded the protective umbrella of CSPA, providing much-needed relief and hope to many immigrant families. While the changes are positive, navigating the intricacies of immigration law can be challenging. It’s always advisable to consult with an expert to explore all available options and understand how these new policies may benefit your case.