To qualify, the beneficiary must meet the legal definition of “child” under U.S. immigration law, and be unmarried and under 21 years of age. Under the legal definition, stepchildren, adopted children, orphans and children born out of wedlock may qualify, permitted they meet specific requirements and are able to submit the necessary evidence to establish the child-parent relationship. A beneficiary who is divorced or widowed at the time of the petition is considered unmarried.

In general, when an immediate relative child of a U.S. citizen reaches 21 years of age, he/she will no longer qualify under this immediate relative category, and will generally become a “first preference” (F1) category. However, in certain instances, the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) allows the beneficiary to retain the classification of “child” even if he/she has reached the age of 21. Under the CSPA, the beneficiary will continue to be considered a “child” for immigration purposes as long as he was under the age of 21 on the date the I-130 petition was filed, even if USCIS does not adjudicate the petition before the child turns 21. His age is essentially “frozen” as of the date the Form I-130 is filed by the U.S. citizen parent until it is approved.

Getting Married: If the child gets married, he/she can no longer be classified under this immediate relative category, and will drop down to the family third preference (F3) category as a married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen. USCIS must be notified of any changes to his/her marital status after Form I-130 has been filed and prior to the obtaining of an immigrant visa or permanent residence.