The family second preference is further divided into two categories:
• F2A: Spouses and Minor Children of LPRs (minor meaning 21 years and unmarried)
• F2B: Unmarried Sons and Daughters, 21 years of age or older, of LPRs. F2B category generally has a longer wait time than F2A.
Child Status Protection Act
If a child turns 21 before his/her priority date becomes current, he/she drops into a different visa category, from 2A to 2B. The child will face a wait of up to a few more years before becoming eligible for a visa. However, under the 2002 Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), the child can subtract from his age the time it took USCIS to approve the initial visa petition. Essentially, when the child’s priority date becomes current, he/she may take the total number of days that the visa petition was pending with USCIS, and subtract it from his/her actual age. If the result is a number less than 21, the child may continue with the immigrant visa (or adjustment of status if the child is in the U.S. on a valid nonimmigrant status) application under the F2A category.
Additionally, under this preference category, the beneficiary, whether 21 years old, under, or over, must remain unmarried from the time the visa petition is filed until he/she receives the immigrant visa and enters the U.S. (if applying from abroad), or at the time he/she adjusts status in the U.S. If the child marries. If even for one day the beneficiary is married, since there is no preference category for a married child/son/daughter of a Lawful Permament Resident, the visa petition is automatically revoked.
Petitioner Becomes a U.S. citizen
If the petitioner filed a petition for his/her foreign national spouse, and later becomes a U.S. citizen, the Petitioner may “upgrade” the petition from the F2 preference to immediate relative (IR) by sending proof of U.S. citizenship (a copy of U.S. passport or certificate of naturalization) to USCIS. The benefit of upgrading means there is no wait for a visa to be current or available as there are no numerical limits on immediate relatives.
Children beneficiaries work a little differently. Only when the petitioner had filed in the F2 category for a child under 21 years of age (and unmarried) as a direct beneficiary may the petitioner “upgrade” when he/she becomes a U.S. citizen. If the child was initially a derivative of the foreign national spouse, the petitioner who has become a U.S. citizen must submit a separate petition for each child under 21 and unmarried in order for the child to benefit as immediate relatives (since there are no derivatives in the immediate relative category).