Could your visa or green card be denied due to a low credit score or old age? Because of a new immigration policy, the answer may be yes.
After the Supreme Court lifted nationwide injunctions, the Public Charge Rule took effect on Feb 24, 2020. It significantly expands the types of public benefits that could disqualify certain nonimmigrants and immigrant applicants, as well as the types of personal information foreign nationals must disclose on their applications.
USCIS will use all this information to determine whether the applicant is—or is likely at any point to become—a public charge. If so, USCIS can deny an application for permanent residency, temporary status, or an extension or change of status.
A Close Look at the Public Charge Rule
According to the new rule, the basic definition of a public charge is a person who receives one or more types of certain public benefits for more than an aggregate total of 12 months in a 36-month period. Because USCIS totals each benefit separately, one month of receiving two types of benefits would equal two total months.
What Benefits Are Problematic?
USCIS will consider the following benefits as evidence of public charge grounds of inadmissibility:
- Cash Assistance for Income Maintenance (including TANF, SSI, and federal, state, and local assistance programs)
- SNAP or Food Stamps
- Housing Assistance (Public Housing or Section 8 Housing Vouchers and Rental Assistance)
- Medicaid (with exceptions listed below)
Not all benefits will jeopardize an applicant’s eligibility. Any benefits not listed above are safe to use, such as:
- Emergency medical assistance
- Medicaid received (1) by children under 21; (2) during pregnancy or within 60 days of pregnancy; (3) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); or for a medical emergency
- Health Insurance under the Affordable Care Act
- Social Security and Medicare
- Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)
- Pell grants and student loans
- Worker’s Compensation or Unemployment Benefits
- Tax-related cash benefits
Additionally, USCIS will not consider benefits received by the immigrant’s family members, members of the U.S. Armed Forces, refugees/asylum seekers, certain self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act, or certain T and U visa applicants.
What Other Information Will USCIS Use?
Adjudicating officers will only consider benefits received on or after February 24, 2020. However, they will use their discretion to determine whether an applicant may receive benefits at any point in the future.
To determine this, officers will assess additional information such as the following:
- Physical health
- Financial situation (assets, debt, credit score, income, etc.)
- Education and skills
- Prospective status and period of admission
Officers must review all factors—both positive and negative—to review the totality of the applicant’s situation.
A Note About COVID-19
Many have pointed out that this rule could not have taken effect at a worse time. Thousands will need preventative care and treatment due to the pandemic, but will this care prevent them from obtaining a visa or green card?
According to a recent alert, no. USCIS has urged all people—regardless of immigration status or pending applications—to seek preventative care, testing, and treatment for COVID-19. If you receive that care, USCIS has said it will not negatively impact your case, even if you pay for that care with public benefits.
Let Us Help You Navigate New Policies
The immigration system’s rapid pace of regulatory changes requires you to consistently adapt your immigration plans, expectations, and strategies. If you’re wondering what steps to take next, we urge you to get into contact with our team at The Law Office of Zhang. We can determine how the public charge rule may affect your case and recommend ways to overcome new obstacles. The world of immigration is experiencing sudden disruptions due to the pandemic, and we want to help you navigate any and all challenges that arise.