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What will Supreme Court's decision mean for immigrants' children?

Immigration law is incredibly complex, in part because there are two main kinds of visas: immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas. It is very easy to confuse the two, which could have disastrous consequences.

Within employment-based immigration, this separation is the difference between a green card (immigrant visa) and a visa that can only be renewed a specific number of times before the immigrant must leave the country (nonimmigrant visa). Fortunately, the H-1B (nonimmigrant) visa allows for an immigrant to adjust his or her status to an immigrant visa, given an employer's sponsorship.

While the immigrant waits for the immigrant visa, which can take years, his or her spouse and children can join him or her in the U.S. Similarly, his or her spouse and children can adjust their status to an employment-based immigrant visa, provided the children are under 21.

Since the wait can be quite long, however, and it is not uncommon for children to turn 21 while their parents still wait for a green card, Congress passed a law in 2002 which many believed to guarantee these aged-out children their place in line for a green card. Yet the Supreme Court of the United States has recently held that the law is not entirely clear, which means that these aged-out children are now in legal limbo.

What Congress or the Obama Administration chooses to do with these now-adult children remains to be seen, but it is clear that their parents and potentially their younger siblings will be able to become legal permanent residents and they will not. At least not through an employment-based visa.

Source: The New York Times, “Children ‘Aged Out’ of Immigration System Won’t Get Special Priority, Justices Rule,” James Barron, June 9, 2014

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