By David A. Isaacson

In recent months, the Visa Bulletin issued by the Department of State has shown a “retrogression” of priority dates in a number of Family-based categories. This means that the cutoff date determining which priority dates are early enough to make a visa number available to particular immigrants so that they can move forward with the process of seeking permanent residence, and which priority dates are not early enough, has moved backward in time rather than forward. Some people who were previously eligible – who appeared to have reached the front of the waiting line – will need to wait until their priority date once again becomes current to get a visa number. This retrogression, which affected the Philippines in the December 2010 Visa Bulletin,, and then expanded to the cutoff dates for the rest of the world in the January 2011 Visa Bulletin,, has the potential to create complications for those who seek to make use of the Child Status Protection Act (“CSPA”).

The CSPA protects certain applicants from losing their status as children even though they have turned twenty-one. The provision of the CSPA relevant here is section 203(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), which provides, in part:

(1) IN GENERAL.– For purposes of subsections (a)(2)(A) and (d), a determination of whether an alien satisfies the age requirement in the matter preceding subparagraph (A) of section 101(b)(1) shall be made using–
(A) the age of the alien on the date on which an immigrant visa number becomes available for such alien (or, in the case of subsection (d), the date on which an immigrant visa number became available for the alien’s parent), but only if the alien has sought to acquire the status of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence within one year of such availability; reduced by
(B) the number of days in the period during which the applicable petition described in paragraph (2) was pending.
(2) PETITIONS DESCRIBED- The petition described in this paragraph is—
(A) with respect to a relationship described in subsection (a)(2)(A), a petition filed under section 204 for classification of an alien child under subsection (a)(2)(A); or
(B) with respect to an alien child who is a derivative beneficiary under subsection (d), a petition filed under section 204 for classification of the alien’s parent under subsection (a), (b), or (c).

Subsection 203(a)(2)(A) refers to a petition filed by a Lawful Permanent Resident (“LPR”) on behalf of his or her spouse or child, and 203(d) provides for “[a] spouse or child” to derive status from the primary beneficiary of various sorts of I-130 and I-140 petitions. In the context of both a “2A” preference petition for one’s child under 203(a)(2)(A), and an application by a derivative child under 203(d), one must determine whether the applicant for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status still qualifies as a “child” by the time that he or she is eligible to obtain an immigrant visa or adjust status.

Pursuant to INA § 101(b)(1), a “child” ordinarily must be less than twenty-one years old. Thus, there is the possibility of “aging out”—of losing one’s status as a child by getting too old. INA § 203(h)(1) says that, as long as the person seeking to be classified as a child has sought to acquire LPR status within one year of visa availability, their age for these purposes is calculated by taking the age at the time of visa availability, and subtracting the time that the I-130 or I-140 petition was pending. In effect, it is as if the child stopped aging at the time the petition was filed, did not start again until the petition was approved, and then stopped again on the day that a visa number became available. (Beneficiaries of petitions that were pending on September 11, 2001, who would otherwise have aged out after that date, should also be able to subtract an additional forty-five days from their age pursuant to section 424 of the USA PATRIOT Act, as clarified by section 42.42, note 12.8(b.) of Volume 9 of the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, available online at If the CSPA-adjusted age under INA § 203(h)(1) is under twenty-one years, then the child – assuming that he or she otherwise qualifies as a “child”, such as by being unmarried – may still adjust status or obtain an immigrant visa under the 2A preference petition, or derivatively on the petition covered by INA § 203(d).

Retrogression complicates matters by creating the possibility that there may no longer be only a single “date on which an immigrant visa number becomes available”, but rather multiple such dates. If, for example, the Visa Bulletin for November 2010 said that a particular priority date was current for the first time, but the Visa Bulletin for January 2011 retrogresses the relevant cutoff date so that this priority date is no longer current, then there will be (at least) two dates on which an immigrant visa number becomes available for someone with that priority date. The first will be November 1, 2010, when the visa number initially became available. The second, following the retrogression, will be the first day of the future month on which the cutoff date finally moves far enough forward that the priority date is current again. In effect, the CSPA is looking to the date on which people pass through the door at the front of a waiting line, but the retrogression has caused many people who had just passed through the door to move backwards and go back outside the door. As the line moves forward, those same people will one day pass through the door yet again, creating a second date of visa availability.

USCIS has said, in a 2008 memorandum from Acting Associate Director Donald Neufeld (updating § 21.2(e) of their Adjudicators Field Manual) that is available online at, that “[i]f a visa availability retrogresses, and an alien has already filed a Form I-485 based on an approved Form I-130 or Form I-140,” then USCIS will “retain the Form I-485 and note the date a visa number first became available.” When the visa number again becomes current, this original visa availability date, having been locked in by the prior filing of the Form I-485 adjustment application, will be used to calculate the CSPA-adjusted age. If, however, a Form I-485 is not filed before retrogression, but only within a year of when the priority date next becomes current, then the CSPA-adjusted age is “determined using the subsequent visa availability date.” (The filing of an I-485 may not be the only way to lock in a CSPA age, since as discussed in a recent article and blog post by Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta, and, the Board of Immigration Appeals has indicated in unpublished decisions that one may seek to acquire lawful permanent residence for CSPA purposes without actually filing an adjustment application; that same logic ought to make it possible to lock in a CSPA-adjusted age before retrogression without actually filing the I-485, but relying on this would be very risky.)

Under the USCIS approach, therefore, you can lock in a child’s CSPA age if you file before a retrogression, but otherwise the child will in effect keep aging until the visa number becomes current again, and the child then seeks to acquire permanent residence within a year of this second date on which a visa has become available. The bright side of retrogression under the USCIS approach is that the subsequent visa availability date can give you another year in which to seek to acquire permanent residence, as long as the child’s adjusted age will still be under twenty-one on that second date.

The Department of State has indicated in Volume 9, Section 42.42 of its Foreign Affairs Manual,, that its approach is similar but subtly different. Just as USCIS does with those who have filed an I-485, the Department of State will look to a child’s age at the first visa availability date if the relevant forms – which in the DOS context are the DS-230, Part 1, or a Form I-824 for a child following to join a principal applicant who adjusted in the United States – are filed within a year of that date and prior to the effective date of any retrogression. If not, the State Department will focus on whether the applicant had a full year to seek to acquire permanent residence before the retrogression:

In order to seek to acquire lawful permanent residence an alien beneficiary must actually have one full year of visa availability. If a visa availability date retrogresses . . . within one year of visa availability and the visa applicant has not yet sought to acquire LPR status, then once a visa number becomes available again the one year period starts over. The alien beneficiary’s age under the CSPA is redetermined using the subsequent visa availability date.

9 FAM 42.42 Note 12.7.

This apparent refusal by the State Department to give children a second chance after retrogression, if they had a full year to apply before retrogression and did not take advantage of it, may be stricter than the USCIS policy. Although the USCIS memo does not specifically address this situation, it strongly implies that whether a child has sought to acquire permanent residence within a year of visa availability can be measured from the second visa availability date that comes after a retrogression, regardless of how much time passed between the first visa availability date and the retrogression. That is, under the USCIS approach, if you miss your one-year deadline after the first visa availability date, you may get another chance if a retrogression followed by a second visa availability date occurs soon enough; under the Department of State approach, you will not.

Under either of these approaches, however, failing to move forward with the permanent residence process before a retrogressed Visa Bulletin takes effect can have dire consequences. If a child’s adjusted age is anywhere near twenty-one based on the first date of visa availability, then missing the opportunity to file before retrogression takes effect, and having to wait for a future forward movement to make a priority date current again after the retrogression, can easily lead to the child aging out. It is extremely risky to hope for a second visa availability date coming soon enough after a retrogression to allow a child’s adjusted age to remain under twenty-one. Therefore, it is essential that immigrants involved in CSPA-related cases affected by the retrogressions in the January 2011 Visa Bulletin act quickly to begin the process of seeking permanent residence before January 1.

(This post orginally appeared on on December 26, 2010)


By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

We are all extremely disappointed that the Senate blocked the DREAM Act on December 18. Even though a majority of the Senate voted for cloture, it was not enough. We need 60 votes for legislation to move forward, even when we have a majority of 55 out of 100. But do we need to wait endlessly for Congress to act? The answer is NO! Faced with unrelenting opposition from a radicalized Republican party that has declared war on immigrants, the Obama Administration is not powerless if it has the vision and the will to act.

We demonstrated in our article Tyranny of Priority Dates,, that it is possible for the Executive to legalize the status of non-citizens without Congressional intervention to achieve something close to CIR. Our proposal for administrative solutions has become all the more relevant now that Congress has not passed the DREAM Act. DREAMERS must still lobby the administration for relief, which is has the ability to grant without going to Congress. Yes, the President does indeed have power to grant benefits administratively, such as parole and employment authorization. The Executive, under INA § 212(d)(5), has the authority to grant parole for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefits. Talented and dedicated DREAMERS who go to college, serve in the military or perform work of national importance under civilian direction are ideal candidates for invoking § 212(d)(5) under “urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefits.” Similarly, the Executive has the authority to grant employment authorization under INA §274A(h)(3), which defines the term “unauthorized alien” as one who is not “(A) an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, or (B) authorized to be so employed by this Act or by the Attorney General.” Under sub paragraph (B), the USCIS may grant an EAD to DREAM kids who inadvertently fell out of status for no fault of their own and who only know America as their country.

The Executive’s use of parole, sua sponte, in such an expansive and aggressive fashion is hardly unique in post-World War II American history. The rescue of Hungarian refugees after the abortive 1956 uprising or the Vietnamese refugees at various points of that conflict comes readily to mind. While these were dramatic examples of international crises, the immigration situation in America today, though more mundane, is no less of a humanitarian emergency with human costs that are every bit as high and damage to the national interest no less long lasting. DREAM kids need not wait an eternity for Congress to come to the rescue.

The government has always had the ability to institute Deferred Action, which is a discretionary act not to prosecute or to deport a particular alien. Deferred Action is purely discretionary. They are both informal ways to allow continued presence in the United States. The INA never mentions deferred action. Neither does deferred action depends upon regulation. Deferred action is not mentioned in Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations but only in the old, and now inapplicable, Operations Instructions. The exercise of prosecutorial discretion to grant deferred action status is an expression of limited enforcement resources in the administration of the immigration law. It makes no sense to deport DREAM kids who have been educated in the US, and who have the potential to enhance the US through their hard work, creativity and determination to succeed. Giving these kids a chance will also help the economy by generating more taxable earnings and will also reduce the budged deficit by over $2.2 billion over a 10 year period,

Deferred Action has also been applied to battered spouse and children self-petitioners who had approved I-360 petitions under the Violence Against Women Act, so that they could remain in the United States and obtain work authorization. In 2006, Congress, in recognition of this informal practice, codified at INA § 204(a)(1)(k) the grant of employment authorization to VAWA self-petitioners. Deferred Action has also been granted to U visa applicants. More recently, and prior to the passage of INA § 204(l), the DHS provided interim relief to surviving spouses of deceased American citizens and their children who were married for less than two years at the time of the citizen’s death. Mr. Neufeld’s memo, issued on June 15, 2009, provides extraordinary relief to spouses whose citizen spouses died regardless of whether the I-130 petitions were approved, pending or even not filed. Such beneficiaries may request deferred action and obtain an EAD. Then, on October 28, 2009, Congress amended the statute, and created § 204(l) to allow, inter alia, a widow who was married less than two years at the time of the citizen’s death to apply for permanent residence.

How about parole in place? Unaccompanied minors brought as young children to the United States without inspection deserve such relief. Take a look at Section 235(a)(1) of the INA. Know what it says? It reminds us that these DREAMERS who are physically in this country without formal inspection or legal admission can be deemed to be applicants for admission. That is how “parole in place” works. By indulging in the legal fiction that these DREAMERS are actually knocking at the golden door and asking to be let in, the Obama Administration can make them eligible for adjustment of status to legal permanent residen (if they qualify as immediate relatives, such as a spouse of a US citizen) through expansion of the parole mechanism. The USCIS informally allows spouses of military personnel who would otherwise be unable to adjust under INA § 245(a) if they were neither “inspected and admitted or paroled” to apply for “parole in place.” This administrative solution, where a non-citizen is fictitiously paroled, and thus rendered eligible for adjustment as an immediate relative of a US citizen under § 245, allows our troops to concentrate in the battlefield without being distracted about whether their spouses can or cannot remain in the US.

Moreover, as suggested in The Tyranny of Priority Dates, there is nothing to prevent the administration from granting similar parole benefits to undocumented non-citizens in the United States, along with employment authorization, who are waiting for their priority dates to become current or who meet certain sympathetic criteria such as DREAM children. The President can achieve something close to the DREAM Act and even Comprehensive Immigration Reform without going through Congress and without violating the Separation of Powers doctrine. While some may argue that there is no express Congressional authorization for the Executive to enact such measures, the President may act within a “twilight zone” in which he may have concurrent authority with Congress. See Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 635 (1952) (Jackson, J., concurring).

There is no bar in law or logic to a decision by the Department of Homeland Security that it will not seek to deport or remove anyone here without color of law who would qualify for DREAM Act benefits. Only in those instances where relief was available would ICE issue a Notice To Appear. Refraining from seeking removal of DREAMERS in the public interest would be entirely consistent with the reasons why the Administration lobbied the Congress so hard in the first place and hopefully will continue to do so. Be prepared for Steve King, Lamar Smith and their nativist allies in the Senate to react. They can threaten to use the power of the purse to curb these regulatory initiatives. Be strong and of good courage! Mr. President, keep your veto pen close at hand. Until we get a new law, justice will have to be squeezed out of the one we have now. The fact that Congress will not act does not mean that the DREAM is dead; it simply is deferred, while we go about its realization by other means.


Although the House voted in favor of the DREAM Act on December 8, 2010, with eight Republicans also joining with a yea, the prospects of passage of the bill in the Senate look less hopeful but still possible. This hesitancy is bolstered by the fact that the Republican minority in the Senate on Thursday filibustered a crucial defense bill because it also included a ban on discrimination against gays. The hypocritical “don’t ask don’t tell policy” if you are gay in the military still stands because of the obstructionism of the Republican minority in the Senate where you need 60 votes to survive a filibuster. This move by the Republicans is even more surprising since a very recent Gallup poll indicates that 67% of Americans support repealing the “don’t ask don’t tell policy,”

The DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act allows children who were brought into the US illegally or who became illegal (as a result of their parents actions) to legalize their status. They should have entered the country before the age of 16 and lived here for five years. DREAM also requires that they must graduate from high school or obtain a GED and demonstrate good moral character. Qualifying children would be given a six year conditional status. During that time, the applicant must have been attending college or serving in the military for at least two years, and must have also passed criminal background checks.

In a clever political move on Thursday, Senator Reid tabled the vote in the Senate until next week so that the Senate could vote on the House bill, which unexpectedly passed on Wednesday. The last time the House passed a major immigration bill was HR 4437, which would have made all undocumented immigrants into felons, including those who assisted them such as pastors and medical personnel. Clearly, the passage of DREAM in the House is a sea change from the passage of HR 4437, which fortunately never went onto become law. But we do hope DREAM does. A new Gallup poll released Friday reveals that 54% of Americans support the DREAM Act. It remains to be seen whether this would change the minds of Republican Senators who had supported prior versions of the DREAM Act, and even a few Democratic Senators (especially from states such as Montana that have no immigrants). Given that DADT was opposed even though more Americans (67%) were in support of its repeal, it remains to be seen whether the Gallup poll on the DREAM Act (with 54% in favor) will have a sway upon the recalcitrant Senators. Within that poll, two-thirds of Democrats say they would vote for the measure, but only 57 percent of independent voters are in favor and even a fewer 34 percent of Republicans say that they will vote for DREAM. In any event, the tabling of the Senate vote was a positive one, and will strenthen the prospects of DREAM’s passage, as it will give more time to mobilize support, and the new Gallup poll should help advocates in gaining more votes in the Senate in favor of DREAM.

One cannot go wrong with DREAM. It is clearly the right thing to do. These kids are in the US in an undocumented capacity for no fault of their own. They are as American as any other kids, and share the same dreams and aspirations, only to have their hopes dashed when they realize that they are in a second class undocumented status. Giving these kids a chance will also help the economy by generating more taxable earnings and will also reduce the budged deficit by over $2.2 billion over a 10 year period, And won’t America ultimately benefit if you give more DREAMers a chance to aspire and succeed through innovation, creativity and industry?

According to Michael Mandel, Chair of the AILA-NY Advocacy Committee, the chances of success in the Senate are”uphill but very possible, ” which is what he had heard, and it is critical that we continue to flood Congress with your calls. He urges that you take a few minutes to ask the recalcitrant senators listed below (but who are not yet lost causes such as John McCain) to vote YES on the DREAM Act. Also, keep checking, and for updates. Ultimately, in the end, the polls do matter, and the recent Gallup poll should sway these Senators to do the right thing by voting in favor of DREAM. And those Republicans who are afraid to come out in favor of this legislation because of the current anti-immigrant mood in the party caused by the Tea Party movement, they should pay heed to people like Newt Gingrich and Jeb Bush, who realize that the Republican party will be doomed if they alienate themselves from the growing number of Latino voters,

Senate Democrats: 866-967-6018 or 202-224-3121
Conrad (ND)
Dorgan (ND)
McCaskill (MO)
Webb (VA)
Warner (VA)
Landrieu (LA)
Pryor (AR)
Tester (MT)
Hagan (NC)
Senate Republicans: 866-967-6018 or 202-224-3121
Hutchison (TX)
Brownback (KS)
Murkowski (AK)
Brown (MA)
Kirk (IL)
Bennett (UT)
Voinovich (OH)
Snowe (ME)
Collins (ME)
Lemieux (FL)
Lugar (IN)
Bunning (KY)