Starting February 24, 2020, USCIS implemented a new rule which determines who is considered to be a “public charge” and how that affects an immigrant’s ability to immigrate to or remain in the United States. According to the new USCIS guideline, a public charge is someone that “is likely to need financial assistance from the government”, and it also applies to individuals who have already received specific financial assistance from the government.
Not all immigrants to the United States will be impacted by the new public charge rule, but those who have received or will be needing financial assistance from the government should speak with an immigration lawyer to determine how this new rule impacts their immigration case.
Which Government Programs are Considered a Public Charge?
The following are common government programs which will affect your ability to immigrate to or legally remain in the United States:
- Cash Assistance for Income Maintenance (includes TANF, SSI, and federal, state, and local assistance programs)
- SNAP or Food Stamps
- Medicaid (there are several exemptions)
- Housing Assistance (Public Housing or Section 8 Housing Vouchers and Rental Assistance)
If you have benefited from any of these programs or are planning on applying for them, you should speak with an experienced immigration attorney who will assist you in determining how these programs affect you and if there are alternative sources you can turn to for financial aid.
How Does This Impact Me?
This new rule applies to all individuals who have already, or will be filing immigration paperwork after February 24, 2020. The new rule only applies to immigrants who have accepted financial assistance through certain government run programs and it does not apply to individuals who are not in one of the exempt categories listed below.
The public charge rule applies to all individuals who are not listed below:
- Asylees and Refugees
- Applicants for U or T Nonimmigrant Status
- VAWA Self-Petitioners
- Special Immigrant Juveniles
- Applicants seeking Temporary Protected Status
- Applicants under the Cuban Adjustment Act
- U.S. citizens, including naturalized citizens
- Lawful Permanent Residents (note: if you plan to be abroad for more than 180 days, please talk to your attorney)
If you have not enrolled in any of the government’s financial assistance programs such as the ones listed previously or you are in one of the exempt categories listed above, then this new rule does not apply to you and your immigration case is not impacted by the new rule.
For the rest of the individuals who the public charge applies to, the new rule does not mean that you will be immediately deported or unable to immigrate to the United States but it does mean that you may need the assistance of an immigration attorney to assist you with your case.
Which Benefits are Not Affected?
The following benefits are not considered public benefits and will not affect you immigration status:
- Benefits received by the immigrant’s family members
- Benefits received by U.S. Armed Forces Service Members
- Emergency medical assistance
- Medicaid received by (1) children under 21; (2) during pregnancy or within 60 days of pregnancy; or (3) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
- Social Security and Medicare
- Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)
- Pell grants and student loans
- Worker’s Compensation or Unemployment Benefits
- Tax-related cash benefits
What to Do if You are Considered a Public Charge
If you have been determined to be a public charge, it is now your responsibility to provide proof to the government that you can and will be financially independent and will no longer require their assistance.
Then, in addition to providing financial documentation, the USCIS may allow an immigrant to post a bond after they have initially been determined to be a public charge.
Current regulations do not indicate the type of bond-either cash or surety-it will accept, nor do the regulations set an amount other than it must be a minimum of $8,100.
Once the bond has been accepted, you will be allowed to adjust, change or extend your immigration status. This process will be complicated, but an experienced immigration lawyer can assist you in obtaining the proper documentation and working with USCIS officers to protect your immigration status.
If your immigration status is in jeopardy due to public charge rule, the experienced immigration law team at JacksonWhite is here to assist you. Contact us today to set up your no-hassle, free consultation!