If you follow changes in immigration law and policy, you’ve been hearing a lot about the Department of Homeland Security’s “public charge rule," more scrutiny, and increased denials of applications. If you’re worried, you’ve got reason to be. On Monday, January 27, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the Trump administration’s request for a stay of the nationwide injunction against public charge rule. This decision clears the way for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement the rule in all 50 states except in Illinois, which has a statewide injunction of its own. As an immigration lawyer in Houston, the Public Charge Rule has been on my radar, here's some more information I put together for you.
Public Charge Rule Update
USCIS has now issued a Fact Sheet noting that the Public Charge rule will apply to applications postmarked on or after February 24, 2020. Since The rule goes into effect February 24th, anyone wishing to avoid the additional scrutiny and risk of denial associated with this new rule will need to take action as soon as possible.
What Will Change Under the Public Charge Rule Update?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will dramatically expand the definition of “public charge,” so that current green card holders as well as other visa applicants could be denied not just for being “primarily dependent on the government for survival”, which is the current standard, but also for using “one or more public benefits” in the past or being “likely at any time” to receive such benefits in the future.
- Under the new rule age could be a reason for denial. If and applicant is younger than the minimum age for full-time employment (18) or even older than the minimum early retirement age for social security purposes (61) or even if their age otherwise impacts their “ability to work”, the person could be considered a public charge and have their application denied.
- DHS will also scrutinize any medical condition and assess whether this condition could affect the applicant’s ability to work, which could potentially expand the scope of the required medical examination.
- DHS officers will also determine whether an applicant has “adequate education and skills to either obtain or maintain employment, if they are authorized to work. This will be achieved by looking at employment history, high school degree and higher education, “occupational skills, certifications, or licenses,” and ability to speak other languages.
- Additionally, the new rule will allow immigration officers to consider English proficiency as a positive or lack of English proficiency as a negative.
- A visa applicant having many children or other dependents could possibly result in denial of an application.
- Lastly, DHS will assess an applicant’s credit history, credit score, and financial liabilities. DHS will also check to see whether the applicant has private insurance or enough resources to cover “reasonably foreseeable medical costs.”
What Benefits Under the New Policy Will Now Be Considered When Evaluating Public Charge?
- Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- State and local cash assistance, also known as “General Assistance”
- Medicaid or other programs supporting long-term institutionalized care, such as in a nursing home or mental health institution
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or “Food Stamps”
- Section 8 housing and rental assistance
- Federal housing subsidies
- Nonemergency Medicaid benefits (except for children under 21, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and mothers within 60 days of giving birth)
Receiving one or more of the above listed public benefits for more than 12 months within a 3-year period, would trigger a “public charge” denial. Additionally, receiving two benefits in one month would count as two months under the new policy. The new policy will not penalize green card or visa applicants for use of these benefits by a spouse or child, only those benefits which the applicant directly receives for their own benefit.
Will There Be Any Changes to Forms When Applying for a Green Card Under the New Public Charge Rule?
Yes. The new public charge rule will require applicants to attach a new form, I-944 which is a Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, when applying for a green card. This is in addition to forms I-485, I-130A, I-765 and I-131.
When Will the New Public Charge Rule Be Implemented?
DHS will issue a notice of when the agency will begin implementing the public charge regulation and when the agency will require the use of new forms.
Immigration Lawyer in Houston
The rule goes into effect February 24th, so anyone wishing to avoid the additional scrutiny and risk of denial associated with this new rule will need to take action as soon as possible. If you or someone you know is thinking of applying for permanent residency or naturalization with this new rule in place, it would be best to do submit with the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney. Contact our office to schedule a consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer in Houston. Click this orange button below to inquire: