Currently, the public charge provision disqualifies immigrants who would be at risk of primarily depending on the government for support. The likelihood of future enrollment in public programs which provide cash benefits is one factor in the determination of whether someone could become a public charge after immigrating to the U.S.
In September 2018, the U.S. government proposed changes to the public charge ground of inadmissibility for immigrants seeking to gain legal resident status in the United States. The proposed changes are open for public comment until December 10, 2018. The final rules may go into effect early next year. As a push towards stricter immigration policies, the current administration’s proposed new guidelines greatly expand the definition of “public charge,” and the requirements that immigrants must meet to avoid disqualification. These new rules put many families who were not previously in danger of inadmissibility under a new burden.
So, what specifically are the proposed policies? The changes define the term “public charge,” as the term is not yet explicitly defined. The proposed definition is “an alien who receives one or more public benefits.” “Public benefits” are defined as programs like cash benefits (SSI, TANF, etc.) or even non-cash benefits (SNAP, Section 8, or Medicaid). Interestingly, in the proposed rules, the Department of Homeland Security makes no consideration of eligibility for such benefits programs. This means that immigrants could now be excluded for using benefits that they are actually legally eligible for.
Adjudicators will consider receipt of public benefits within 36 months, or currently receiving public benefits, as a “heavily weighted negative factor” when determining inadmissibility under public charge. Also, officials will still consider the “likelihood” of using public benefits in the future, even if immigrants have not used, and are not currently using benefits. The “likelihood” consideration will be made with factors such as: age, health, family size, financial status, skills, education, and even English proficiency. These factors would weigh either positively or negatively. For example, being over age 61 is a negative factor, but demonstrating access to financial resources is a positive factor. Notably, there are many negative factors; even receiving a fee waiver from the DHS itself would be a negative factor!
These new guidelines are still open to public comment for 60 days. The government must consider all unique comments provided, giving the public a chance to have their voices heard. Comments can be posted to the regulations.gov website. If you would like to let the department know your opinion on the changes, please follow the link and post an original comment. The window for posting comments is open until December 10, 2018.
Grounds for inadmissibility are very complex and case-specific. If you, or anyone you know, have questions about eligibility for immigration to the U.S., please contact a knowledgeable and experienced immigration lawyer.
Sources and further reading:
Post a Comment about the Changes
Regulations.gov, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” – (Comments must be made in English. Be sure to include the agency name, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS, and the Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012 in your comment)
“Public Charge” and Proposed Changes