Explaining the Public Charge Rule
On August 14, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced what is referred to as a “Final Rule,” which prescribes “how DHS will determine whether an alien applying for admission or adjustment of status is inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA or the Act), because he or she is likely at any time to become a public charge.”
This rule not only applies to nonimmigrants applying for status in the United States, but also to immigrants who are applying for an adjustment of status in the country. The rule becomes effective on October 15, 2019.
Thirteen states have already filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the new rule, contending that the new rule “unlawfully expands the definition of public charge.” It is possible that the courts may issue an injunction temporarily blocking the rule from taking effect.
What does the rule mean exactly?
Although public charge grounds have long been considered when determining inadmissibility of a potential immigrant to the country, this “Final Rule” expands on the inadmissibility grounds to include more kinds of public benefits received. (See the full letter from USCIS explaining the Final Rule here.)
Under the new rule, the use of Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, often referred to as ‘food stamps’), and housing assistance will be used as evidence that the green card or visa applicant is inadmissible under the public charge ground.
Who does the rule impact?
It appears that the Final Rule will mainly impact those seeking permanent resident status through family member petitions, although once the rule comes into effect its impact will be more fully understood.
According to USCIS, “this regulation does not apply to humanitarian-based immigration programs for refugees, asylees, Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJs), certain trafficking victims (T nonimmigrants), victims of qualifying criminal activity (U nonimmigrants), or victims of domestic violence (VAWA self-petitioners), among others.”
Read the USCIS letter here for a list of further categories of people excluded from the rule.
If you are trying to figure out how this new rule impacts you, please contact our office, Valverde Law, to set up an appointment. Our number is 757-422-8472.
If you would like to hear Attorney Hugo Valverde explain the impact of the law, check out the August 12 episode of the podcast Hearsay with Cathy Lewis (skip to minute 36:56).
If you would like to read the language of the law, check out the Federal Register.
If you would like to understand the impact of the law more fully, check out the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.