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Court allows 'aged-out' green card applicants back in line

An important immigration case was decided by a federal court of appeals this week. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals narrowly held on Wednesday that immigration officials must give priority status to thousands of green card applicants who "aged out" of eligibility for a special visa when they turned 21.

United States Citizen and Immigration Services had decided that these applicants, upon turning 21, were no longer eligible for the special visas that apply to children of green card holders. USCIS said that the young immigrants lost their place in line even though some of their parents' applications took years to make it through the system.

The federal appeals court disagreed, holding that the children should retain their "priority date" that was established when their parents filed for a derivative visa for their children. Under U.S. immigration law, children under the age of 21 can immigrate under their parents' applications for green cards.

The court reasoned that Congress, with the passing of the Child Status Protection Act of 2002, had intended for children to keep the original date of application, even after they turned 21 while waiting for their parents' green cards to process.

An attorney representing the immigrant petitioners said the holding means that thousands of immigrants who were told they lost their spot in line because they "aged out" will now have a lot shorter time to wait before obtaining their own green cards.

However, it is possible that the federal government will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

Wondering how this decision affects you or your family members? Talk to an experienced immigration attorney in your area.

Source: USA TODAY, "Court fast-tracks some green card applications," Sept. 27, 2012

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