Immigration law allows the spouses and children of a direct beneficiary of an immigrant petition to accompany the direct beneficiary to the U.S. and receive their own green cards as dependent beneficiaries. To immigrate as a spouse dependent beneficiary is fairly easy. The marriage must have been created before the direct beneficiary received the green card. However, immigrating as a child dependent beneficiary can be a bit tricky.
To immigrate as a child dependent, the individual must meet the definition of “child” that is outlined in immigration law, meaning the individual must, at the time the parent receives the green card, be both unmarried and under 21 years of age. Meeting the marital status requirement is clearly easy, but meeting the age requirement could prove difficult because it would take several years for the parent to receive the green card. Even if the immigrant petition was filed before the child turned 21, it has been common for the child to turn 21 while waiting for the green card. If this happened, the child was no longer considered a child for purposes of being a dependent beneficiary because the child had “aged out.”
Thankfully, the U.S. Congress recognized the unfair result of the aging out problem and passed the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) in order to fix this problem. The CSPA allows potential child dependent beneficiaries to “freeze” their ages to protect their eligibility for immigration benefits, no matter how long it takes for their parents to receive their green cards.