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What is the New Public Charge Rule and How Does it Affect Me?

One top reason to hire an experienced immigration lawyer is to have someone who is on top of the constant changes in immigration rules and laws. As Chicago immigration attorneys, we make it our goal to stay ahead of upcoming changes and to fully understand what those changes mean for our current and prospective clients.

Must recently, a new rule from USCIS governs the public charge ground of inadmissibility, and it has crucial implications for immigrants.

The rule first came about in proposed regulations during October 2018, and it expands the definition of public charge. It also includes new benefit programs to be incorporated into the consideration of whether or not someone meets the ground for public charge.

Given that the new rule will be active as of October 15, 2019, you should consider speaking with a Chicago immigration lawyer if you or one of your loved ones could be affected by this rule.

What Does Public Charge Mean?

In an immigration context, the idea of being a public charge is not new. In fact, Congress has long held that individuals should not be admitted into the U.S. if they are not self-sufficient. If the immigrant in question would not be able to survive in the U.S. without public assistance, admission to the U.S. can be denied on those grounds.

The newly updated public charge immigration rule goes into further detail about how to determine whether someone applying for either adjustment of status or admission could become a public charge at any point.

The primary piece of evidence reviewed to determine whether or not someone could be classified as a public charge is an affidavit of support. However, other factors such as health, age, assets, education, financial status, family status, and skills are all considered by the government in determining whether or not someone is a public charge.

What Does the New Rule Say?

This public charge grounds of inadmissibility rule became final on August 14, 2019. The term “likely to at any time to become a public charge” has a few important impacts on those seeking adjustment of status or admission. These include:

Rather than considering whether or not someone might be “primarily dependent” on federal and state programs, the new rule instead considers people who are “more likely than not” to get any benefits for more than 12 months.
The term “public charge” is expanded beyond three cash assistance programs and now includes other programs such as non-emergency Medicaid, SNAP, Section 8, and more.
Whereas the previous focus for such an application was on the petitioning sponsor’s income from the affidavit of support, five new statutory factors will now be considered. These include: family status, health, age, assets and financial status, and skills.
A public charge bond could be assessed for those applicants who might fail the public charge test

What Programs Are Evaluated for Public Charge Purposes?

As mentioned above, the expansion of the programs means that many more people might meet the definition grounds for public charge. The new public charge test also does not allow for negative weight due to family member receipt of benefits, including U.S. citizen children. However, certain programs will be evaluated if the applicant has received them in the past/currently and others will be considered if they have been received by the applicant beginning on October 15, 2019.

Of the list below, the first four meet the former requirement and the remainder meet the latter:

  • SSI
  • State general assistance
  • TANF
  • Benefits for long-term care institutionalization
  • Public housing
  • Medicaid (outside of emergency Medicaid, as noted above)
  • SNAP
  • Section 8 Rental Assistance
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program

Are There Any Other Factors That Could Influence My Immigration Application?

There are factors that could negatively influence the determination of the public charge status. These include a person who is not a full time student but is authorized to work and not currently employed, a person receiving one or more of the benefits listed above, someone who has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition that will likely require treatment, and someone previously found deportable or inadmissible on public charge grounds.

In addition to these negative factors, positive factors that could influence the outcome of a public charge evaluation include a household income at least 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline, an applicant with private health insurance that does not lead to subsidies under the PPACA, and the applicant working with an income of least 250 percent of the FPG.

Are There Exceptions to This New Public Charge Immigration Rule?

There are exemptions for Medicaid for those people under age 21 and for women during pregnancy and up to two months after giving birth.

Furthermore, it is important to understand that this new rule does not affect naturalization. Instead, it has to do only with those seeking a Non-Immigrant Visa or an Immigrant Visa or those seeking adjustment of status.

Contact Attorney Julia Sverdloff

If you have questions about how this upcoming rule could affect your immigration status or want to discuss future issues surrounding adjustment of status or immigration, set up a time to talk to our Chicago immigration lawyers about the new public charge rule.