News of the new criteria for “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” has swept through the immigrant communities like wildfire since its announcement on August 12, 2019. Millions of current and prospective immigrants are wondering how the new rules may affect green card applications, and unfortunately the news isn’t good.

The new “public charge” criteria are sure to make green card applications more difficult for many immigrants, further complicating an already challenging process. Now, more than ever, immigrants will need an experienced immigration attorney at their side to pass the rising barriers to legal residency and citizenship in the United States.

What Is The New Public Charge Rule?

USCIS defines a public charge as “someone who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”

In common terms, that means immigration officials are on the lookout for immigrants who currently rely on assistance from government benefit programs, or who are in a precarious financial position that may lead to applying for government benefits in the future.

USCIS already considers likely public charges inadmissible to the United States. The Final Rule on Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility seeks to strengthen the existing rules that determine who is likely to become a public charge, which will make it much more difficult for immigrants to prove that they will not become a public charge in the future.

The Final Rule is evolving and will continue to be updated before its rollout on October 15. For the latest updates, refer to the USCIS Final Rule on Public Charge Information Page. 

Effects Of The New Public Charge Rules

Under the new public charge criteria, legal immigrants who rely on public benefits like Medicaid, housing assistance, and food stamps may struggle to obtain a green card. These rules aren’t new — rather, they’re a stricter set of criteria for the existing rules on “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.”

In the short term, the new public charge criteria will have a major impact on the following areas:

  • Immigrant sponsorship
  • Affidavits of support
  • Form I-864
  • Proving that you’re not a public charge

In the long term, the new rules will likely skew the immigration process in favor of wealthy and/or highly skilled immigrants. As factors like age, education, wealth, and English language proficiency take on greater importance in the green card application process, immigrants who are currently or may become a public charge are at a much higher risk of having their application denied.

Unfortunately, the Final Rule may lead to more deportations as well. Immigrants on temporary visas who are applying for an adjustment of status may not be able to obtain a permanent visa if they are at risk of becoming a public charge, which could result in removal proceedings.

How Working With An Immigration Attorney Can Help

Immigrants can file an application for a green card without an attorney, and in truth many immigrants do. However, if you have any potential red flags or issues that may complicate your application — especially under the new public charge rules — working with an experienced immigration attorney is the best way to maximize your chance of success.

Error Free Application

When you hire an immigration attorney to help you obtain a green card, the attorney will ensure your application is free of errors that often result in immediate denial. Your attorney will help you craft a compelling application with ample evidence to back your claims, and they’ll help you respond to USCIS if the case worker requests additional information.

Interview Preparation and Practice

When it’s time for your green card interview, your attorney will help you prepare by holding practice interviews and providing you with sample questions. If there are any red flags in your background, the attorney will help you prepare and practice well-crafted responses to address them. In some cases, your attorney may attend the green card interview with you.

Increase the Likelihood of Approval

Ultimately, your attorney’s job is to do everything they can to maximize the likelihood of your application being approved. In many cases, an attorney can also help to speed up the process — a valuable service when green card cases can take several years to process.

FAQs About The Final Rule On Public Charge Grounds

Q: What Is Inadmissibility On Public Charge Grounds?

Under Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a green card applicant may be considered inadmissible to the United States (i.e. you cannot enter the country, even if you’re already in the USA) if they’re likely to become a public charge. Immigrants who are deemed inadmissible cannot apply for an adjustment of status to legal permanent resident.

Q: Does The Public Charge Rule Affect Naturalization?

No. While the public charge criteria may negatively impact green card applications, they have no effect on naturalization applications.

That said, obtaining a green card is a key step towards naturalization, so the new rule may hamper long-term goals of becoming a naturalized citizen.

Q: When Does The Final Rule Take Effect?

The new criteria for classifying an immigrant as a public charge are scheduled to take effect on October 15, 2019.

The good news is that the Final Rule will not be retroactive. In other words, immigrants who have used public benefits in the past may be exempt. It’s immigrants who currently rely on benefit programs or who lack sufficient financial support that may run into problems under the Final Rule.

What To Do If You Need Help

Are you concerned that your green card application is imperiled by the new public charge criteria? Whether you’re preparing an application or have already filed, you should contact an immigration attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. 

It’s best to address the new criteria (and other common concerns) before submitting your application, but it’s never too late. If your application is already in the queue with USCIS, your attorney may be able to file additional paperwork and evidence to prove that you won’t be a public charge and that you have sufficient financial support to qualify for a green card under the new rules.
 

Call our Immigration team at (480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.

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