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Immigration Corner | What happens if my filing does not come through before I turn 21?

Published:Tuesday | March 22, 2022 | 12:06 AM
Dahlia Walker-Huntington
Dahlia Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

My father started filing for me over six years ago and now I’m a couple months from my 21st birthday. Would there be a problem if my filing comes through after my birthday?


Dear T,

When a US citizen files for a child under 21, that petition is considered an immediate relative petition and is usually processed as soon as the paperwork can be reviewed and approved. Pre-pandemic, that would normally take about a year. However, since the pandemic there is a backlog of files. In this immediate relative filing, it does not matter if the child reaches adulthood at age 21 before they get the visa because, for immigration purposes, the child keeps the child status even after age 21 when the petitioning parent is a US citizen.

If the petitioning parent is a green card holder and the child is under 21 years old, that petition falls into the F2A preference category, and the beneficiary has to wait until a visa is available. That category has been current for years, which translates into a visa, if available, as soon as the paperwork is processed and there is space for an interview in the foreign country. However, in the F2A preference category, once the child is 21 years old, the child gets placed in the F2B preference category and now has a much longer wait for a visa to become available. But, the now 21-year-old can still be protected under the Child Status Protection Act to keep their ‘child’ classification, if they ‘seek to acquire’ the visa within one year of a visa becoming available.

In either case, it should not take six years for a parent’s application for a minor child to be processed. I suggest that you and your father seek consultation with an immigration attorney to determine what the actual status of your petition is before you become 21 years old.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq, is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a diversity and inclusion consultant, mediator, and former special magistrate and hearing officer in Broward County, Florida.