U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new policy update Tuesday that could protect the children of temporary work visa holders from having to leave the country while their parents wait for their green cards to be processed.
Many of these children enter the United States as minors whose parents are on temporary work visas, like the H-1B. Employers can sponsor the parents for a green card, but the lengthy green card backlogs mean they often wait years to obtain permanent residence. If the child “ages out” and turns 21 while the parent is still on a temporary work visa or waiting for a green card, the child loses their legal status.
More than 200,000 children of temporary visa holders who grew up in the U.S. are at risk of losing their legal status when they turn 21. They either must apply for a different visa, remain in the U.S. without legal status, or leave. Around 10,000 of these so-called “documented dreamers” age out each year, according to the Cato Institute.
The Child Protection Act, passed in 2002, allowed children to “freeze” their age while their parent’s green card application was being processed. Previously, USCIS calculated a child’s age based on the “final action date” chart in the Visa Bulletin, which lets applicants know when they can apply for a green card. The new update, which is effective immediately, will allow applicants to apply for a green card using the earlier date in the “dates for filing” chart (if all this sounds confusing, check out the Boundless guide on understanding the Visa Bulletin).
As part of the update, children who were previously denied green cards because of their age may appeal the decision.