How to Calculate Child’s Age under CSPA?

Updated on 11/01/2023

We all know that the wheels of government organizations can turn slowly. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is no different. Considering the number of months, or even years, that the immigration process can take, often children who are young at the time of application may have reached adulthood by the time they are eligible for an adjustment of status.

There are several immigration categories where an individual must be under the age of 21 to qualify. But what if they were under 21 at the time of approval but in their early twenties by the time a visa has become available? The good news is that the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) allows for calculations that regress a young adult’s age to that which they were earlier in the immigration process.

Child's age under CSPA

What is the Child Status Protection Act?

The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) was codified in 2002 to change the laws regarding who can be considered a “child” for immigration purposes. In the field of immigration, the term, “child,” refers to an unmarried person who is under the age of 21.

Whether or not a person is considered a child can be important when a foreign national is young when their qualified relative filed an immigrant petition for them or their parents but have turned 21 by the time the petition has been approved and they are able to adjust their status or apply for an immigrant visa. The CSPA was enacted to protect youth from aging out while their applications for lawful permanent residency are being processed.

By allowing for different calculations of age while a green card application is being adjudicated, hardships can be prevented that would otherwise keep a young person from attaining lawful permanent resident status. The processing of immigration applications can have a long timeline, and sometimes unexpected delays can may the process even more lengthy.

Now that the Child Status Protection Act has become part of immigration law, aged-out child green card applicants can feel more at ease with the processing period of their USCIS forms, because their age will be calculated according to a separate formula. Even if they age out beyond 21 years old, they may still qualify for lawful permanent resident status.

Who may benefit from the CSPA?

Individuals who are aged-out children may benefit from CSPA calculations when adjusting their status to a green card or applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate, so long as their Form I-485 adjustment of status applications or the underlying approved petition was filed on or after August 6, 2002. Underlying green card petition forms for which CSPA calculations would apply are the following:

At, you can free check eligibility to see whether you are eligible to file I-130 petition for your alien relatives without providing any personal information. Free check your eligibility if you are a U.S. citizen and plan to file an I-130 petition for spouse, parent, child, or sibling, or if you are a lawful permanent resident and plan to file an I-130 petition for spouse/child.

Ways to Calculate the CSPA Age of the Child

The USCIS policy manual provides a variety of scenarios in which a foreign national would need to calculate a child’s age with regard to CSPA. Calculations for aged-out children can vary depending on the category under which they applied for an immigrant visa.

Applications Involving Immediate Relatives

In order for an aged-out child to calculate their years based on the Child Status Protection Act, the foreign national must have remained unmarried. Furthermore, the applicant for I-485 adjustment of status must have been younger than 21 years old and unmarried when their Form I-130 or I-360 form was originally filed.

When a child is a derivative beneficiary of a Form I-130 based on a parent’s marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, who subsequently dies before the child and foreign national parent can adjust their status, this application can be converted to a Form I-360 widow(er) petition, of which the child would be a derivative beneficiary. In such cases, the Child Status Protection Act can still be applied to an unmarried, aged-out child.

For example, if a child’s mother marries an American citizen, and then the child is a derivative beneficiary’s of their mom’s Petition for Alien Relative, which is filed on December 1, 2018 when the child is 15 years, 10 months old, their age is frozen at that age for purposes of the petition, regardless of when they adjust their status to a green card. However, if the American citizen passes away 11 months later on November 1, 2019, and the foreign national’s widow’s petition converts to an I-360 application, the child’s age will be fixed at 16 years, 9 months old. It is important that the child be under 21 and unmarried on the date of the conversion from the Form I-130 petition to the Form I-360 widow(er) filing.

Derivative Asylees and Refugees

The CSPA calculation of the age of children who are derivative beneficiaries of applications for asylum or registration of refugee status is similar to that of immediate relatives, and offspring of widows or widowers.

Under the Child Status Protection Act an unmarried person who is under the age of 21 at the time of filing the principal’s Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal (Form I-589) will be considered a child when it is time to adjust their status to a green card. Even if the derivative asylee has aged-out by the time a visa is available to them, their age will have been fixed at the date of filing of the principal’s I-589 application, rather than the date of the Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition or the Form I-485, which is used to adjust status.

The principal asylee should be sure to list the child on their original Form I-589, in order to fix the youth’s age at the time of filing. Otherwise, an aged-out child will need to overcome this failure to list them on the original application by providing proof of a parent-child relationship and age, as well as a reasonable explanation about why the son or daughter was omitted from the Form I-589 when it was filed.

For example, a child’s father files a Form I-589 on January 1, 2014, and includes their son as a derivative beneficiary on the form. On January 1, 2014, the boy is 18 years, 2 months old. A visa becomes available on January 1, 2017 when the boy is 21 years, 2 months old, and he is not married. That means that the father can include his son as a derivative asylee when he files to adjust his status to lawful permanent residency. Even though the unmarried son has aged-out, under the CSPA he will be viewed as a child that is 18 years, 2 months old, because that was his age at the time of filing the original application.

For derivative refugees, the CSPA calculation is even simpler. As with the asylum application, a child’s age is fixed on the date of filing of the Form I-590, Registration for Classification as a Refugee. Even if the child is over the age of 21 by the time the refugees are able to adjust their status to a green card, they have not aged out under the Child Status Protection Act. Moreover, a derivative refugee is free to get married, as they do not need to remain unmarried until they get their green card. Under Section 209 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, derivative refugees can be married at the time of filing their Form I-485 to adjust their status.

As with derivative asylees, an unmarried child refugee who is under the age of 21 should have been listed on the original Form I-590. Otherwise, if they are aged-out when a visa becomes available, they will need to demonstrate that there is a parent-child relationship, provide proof of age, and explain why the youth was omitted from the principal’s original Registration for Classification as a Refugee.

Family-based, Employment-based, and Diversity Visa Applications

The Child Status Protection Act applies differently to persons who have applied for green cards based on family, employment, or the Diversity Visa program (green card lottery). With these type of petitions, a child’s age does not freeze in time when the application is filed. Instead, there is a mathematical formula to calculate the adjusted age of a seemingly aged-out unmarried child.

Also, for the CSPA to apply an aged-out child, they must meet the Sought to Acquire requirement. We describe it in detail in the next section.

To calculate the age of a child who intends to apply for a green card based on family preference (F1, F2A, F2B, F3, F4), employment preference (EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4, EB-5), or the Diversity Visa program, the formula is as follows:

Age at time of visa availability minus (-) Pending Time= CSPA Age

Although a green card derivative beneficiary may have several immigrant petitions, they must calculate their CSPA age based on the petition for which a visa is available. In addition, they must remain unmarried in order to qualify.

To figure out the appropriate CSPA age of a child, one must determine:

  • Age at Time of Visa Availability; and
  • Pending Time

Age at Time of Visa Availability

The date the visa is considered available is the later of these two dates:

  • The date the petition was approved; or
  • For the child under NVC consular processing, the first day of the month of the Department of State Visa Bulletin that indicates that a visa is available in the Final Action Dates chart (“NVC date”); for the child under adjustment of status processing, the first day of the month of when USCIS considers a visa available for accepting and processing an adjustment of status application for that immigrant preference category and priority date, in other words, the first day of the month of when the child can file an I-485 adjustment of status application based on USCIS’s I-485 filing chart (“AOS date”).

For Diversity Visa, the date a visa is considered available for CSPA purposes is the first day on which the principal applicant’s rank selection number is current for visa processing.

In most cases, the AOS date is earlier than NVC date, and moreover, as long as the child timely files an I-485 adjustment of status, the child’s age will be frozen through the final adjudication of the I-485 application, regardless of when a visa is authorized for issuance based on the Final Action Dates chart.  Thus, it is more advantageous for the child under adjustment of status (see Example 1 and 2 below). Nevertheless, not all children are eligible to file an I-485 adjustment of status application in the United States.

Pending Time

The Pending Time is not how long it takes for a visa to become available. In actuality, Pending Time is the duration of time between the filing of the immigrant petition and the date of its approval by USCIS. So if an immigrant petition was filed on January 1, 2019, and after one Request for Evidence (RFE) letter (if any) and a response to it, a notice of approval from USCIS was issued on February 1, 2020. Therefore, the Pending Time is 1 year, 1 month, because that it the amount of time from filing to approval.

Example 1 of CSPA Calculation

An alien computer programmer’s employer filed an EB-2 second preference employment-based Form I-140 for him on September 1, 2002, a date which was after the enactment of the Child Status Protection Act. He included his daughter on his Form I-140 as a derivative beneficiary. His daughter was born on October 1, 2000. The petition was approved on October 1, 2004. The computer programmer checked the USCIS’s I-485 filing chart for October 2023 and finds that he was eligible for filing an I-485 (Filing Dates Chart), according to his Priority Date. His daughter is living in the United States in H-4 status. So he filed his Form I-485 together with her daughter’s I-485 on November 10, 2023.

Age at the time of visa availability (AOS date): 23 years (October 1, 2023-October 1, 2000)

Pending Time: 2 years, 1 month

CSPA age = 20 years, 11 months

Therefore, the computer programmer’s daughter is still considered a child under the CSPA. Even though her real age is actually 23 years old, she has not aged-out. Per CSPA, the daughter is still a 20 years, 11 month old “child.” The Child Status Protection Act has made it possible for her to still qualify as a derivative beneficiary.

Example 2 of CSPA Calculation

Similar as above.  However the daughter is outside the United States and is not able to get a visa to arrive in the United States. Thus, the daughter can only apply for an immigrant visa through NVC consular processing. Based on the Final Action Dates Chart, her father’s Priority Date is not current until December 2023.  

Age at the time of visa availability (NVC date): 23 years, 2 months (December 1, 2023-October 1, 2000)

Pending Time: 2 years, 1 month

CSPA age = 21 years, 1 month

Therefore, the daughter’s CSPA is 21 years 1 month and thus aged-out.

Example 2 of CSPA Calculation

A United States citizen filed an I-130 immigrant petition for his sister on January 1, 2005. The petition got approved by USCIS on July 1, 2010. The sister’s son was born on March 1, 1996. The sister and her son are living overseas. On June 1, 2020, the visa number (Final Action Dates Chart) became current for F4 visa category.

Age at the time of visa availability: 24 years, 3 months (June 1, 2020-March 1, 1996)

Pending Time: 5 years 6 months (July 1, 2010- January 1, 2005)

CSPA age = 18 years, 9 months

As such, the sister’s son has not aged-out and is eligible for green card as a derivative beneficiary of the sister.

Sought to Acquire Requirement

In order to benefit from CSPA as a family preference (including VAWA), employment-based preference, or DV applicant, in addition to meeting the CSPA age requirement, and remaining unmarried, there is also a mandatory criterion called Sought to Acquire Requirement that a child who intends to apply for green card must meet.

To meet the Sought to Acquire requirement, a child who intends to apply for green card can do any one of the following within one year of a visa becoming available for the first time:

  • Properly file Form I-485 with the USCIS
  • Electronically file a DS-260 with the Department of State
  • Pay the immigrant visa fee
  • Pay the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) fee (provided the child is listed on the I-864)
  • Properly file Form I-824 on behalf of the child

A child’s CSPA age is frozen in time when any of the above actions is taken within one year of a visa becoming available for the first time.

Failure to do one of the above actions can prevent an aged-out child from being able to be considered by their CSPA age. However, in its discretion the USCIS may consider reasonable excuses (like extraordinary circumstances) for being unable to meet the Sought to Acquire requirement on time.

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