A federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that immigration officials must give priority status to thousands of green card applicants who lost their place in line for U.S. residency when they turned 21. The narrowly divided 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Wednesday that the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) wrongly determined the applicants were no longer eligible for special visas as children of green card holders after they turned 21.
Under U.S. immigration law, children 21 and older cannot immigrate under their parents’ applications for green cards. USCIS said those children who “aged out” during the process lost their place in line, even if the parents’ application took years to process.
The court ruled 6-5 that applicants may keep their “priority date” established when their parents filed for a derivative visa for their children. According to Carl Shusterman, one of the lawyers representing the applicants, ”Tens of thousands of children living in the U.S. or abroad who have ‘aged out’ of the green card process would reclaim their place in line based on this decision.”
The court ruled that immigration officials were wrongly forcing many of these applicants to file new applications for residency, putting their application at the bottom of the pile. The new ruling requires immigration officials to consider the original application date while processing the application for residency.