Examining Public Charge: What Is It and Who It Affects?

What is the public charge rule and how can it affect my immigration process?

Public charge is a concept that essentially allows the United States government to deny a visa to anyone who may become dependent on governmental assistance in the future or who may have used government resources in the past. Public charge is when someone is primarily dependent on the government for subsistence as demonstrated by using public cash assistance for income maintenance or long-term care at the expense of the government. The types of benefits considered will include both cash and non-cash benefits.

Who will this rule affect?
The federal register states that the public charge ground applies to any individual applying for a visa to come to the US temporarily or permanently, for admission, or for an adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident.

What assistance is considered a public benefit? 

Under the proposed rule, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), Section 8 housing assistance and federally subsidized housing will be used as evidence that a green card or visa applicant is inadmissible under the public charge ground. Medicaid received by applicants while under age 21 or while pregnant are not considered.

How will the officer analyze whether to make a public charge finding?

Immigration officials will consider a person’s: age, health, family seize, skills and financial status to determine whether there is a likelihood that they will become a public charge in the future. The Department of Homeland Security is also proposing to add form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency. The goal of this form is for an officer to determine whether the applicant is likely to receive any government benefits in the future. This form is 19 pages long and requests information, including: age, family information, health information, assets details, income, credit history, and many more details.

The final rule states that a person who has received a public benefit for more than 12 months in aggregate within any 36-month period, will be deemed a public charge. The rule specifies further, that if you received more than one benefit a month, it will c  ount as two months of having received these benefits.

Are any applicants exempted from the rule?

Yes. Congress has specifically exempted the following groups from the public charge inadmissibility:

  • Refugees, asylees, Afghani or Iraqi national employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government, Cuban and Haitian entrants at adjustment, Nicaraguans and other Central Americans who are adjusting status, under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), Haitians who are adjusting status under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, and VAWA self-petitioners, among others.

When will this go into effect?

As of now, the final rule was published on August 14, 2019. However, the rule will go into effect 60 days later, on October 15, 2019, if legal challenges do not cause the rule to be delayed.  

At the Powers Law Group, we have vast experience handling complex adjustment of status cases. If you have any questions about this potential new policy and would like to know how this will affect you, please contact our office at (713) 589-2085 to schedule a consult with one of our attorneys.

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