Many of our Family Immigration clients in Columbus, Ohio and in Michigan and elsewhere share their frustration that notwithstanding near a decade passage of the Child Status Protection ACT (CSPA), USCIS continues to struggle with its interpretation. I explained in my prior blog, The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), enacted on August 6, 2002, contains remedies for foreign nationals claiming a “child” status who are in jeopardy of losing their immigration benefits due to aging out. Though the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), was enacted in 2002, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) were still changing its interpretation of the CSPA’s provisions until 2008. In particular, foreign nationals who had an approved immigrant visa petition prior to the CSPA’s inception, but had not filed a green card application before August 6, 2002 were initially not eligible for the CSPA’s benefits.
In guidance issued in February 2003 and August 2004, the USCIS reiterated their initial position: that the provisions of the CSPA took effect on August 6, 2002 and were not retroactive. Thus, benefits would only be available to foreign nationals who aged out on or after August 6, 2002. The only exceptions for foreign nationals who aged out prior to August 6, 2002 were for those who had a visa petition either pending on August 6, 2002 or had an approved petition with a green card application pending on August 6, 2002. Interestingly, pending for the purposes of visa petitions includes appeals or motions to reopen filed with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) or the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) on or before August 6, 2002.
The USCIS’ policy shift was not voluntary, rather mandatory in light of the BIA’s decision in In Re Rodolfo Avila-Perez in February 2007, holding that it is not mandatory for a foreign national to have an application for adjustment of status or immigrant visa pending on August 6, 2002 to be eligible for CSPA benefits. Accordingly, the USCIS revised its previous position regarding the retroactivity of the CSPA provisions. Currently, qualifying foreign nationals who aged out prior to the CSPA’s implementation can file a new green card application to take advantage of the CSPA. Additionally, foreign nationals whose green card applications were denied due to age can file motions to reopen or reconsider. It took the USCIS a long time to settle on the appropriate interpretation of the CSPA, but fortunately the correct conclusion was reached: that the benefits of the CSPA should have retroactive application to certain foreign nationals.