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Wait time for citizenship extends 9 years when kids turn 21

In a decision that may surprise many in Florida, the Supreme Court ruled on June 9 that immigrant children will be moved to the back of the line to obtain their visas when they turn 21. This includes those who came to the United States with their parents and have been waiting to become citizens for years.

Under present immigration law, a child's petition automatically converts to an adult's petition when the child turns 21. The government estimated that thousands of children age out of the category each year. In order to attempt to fix the problem, Congress passed the Child Protection Act in 2002. This particular law allows certain immigrant children to extend their child status for a certain amount of time or change their status to adult but keep their priority date. However, this law applies only to a small portion of the children who are waiting to become citizens.

It was stated by immigration advocates that the law was set up this way in order to keep families together. However, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network estimated that children who were kicked to the back of the line had to wait another nine years to become citizens while keeping the priority dates that are given initially will only extend the wait period by a few months.

U.S. immigration laws can be difficult to understand, especially when someone has just come into the country. An attorney may be able to help a client navigate the legal process for becoming a U.S. citizen. In addition to helping clients with the legal paperwork to obtain green cards and work visas, they can also help those who are seeking asylum from persecution.

Source: Politico, "Supreme Court: Children over 21 go to back of visa line", June 09, 2014

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