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How Could the Public Charge Rule Affect Your Case?

The Department of Homeland Security officially implemented the public charge rule on February 24, 2020, and it will likely impact the application results of thousands.

Unless you are a member of an exempt class (e.g. refugees, asylees, applicants for T or U Visas, petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act), USCIS will reject your visa or green card application if the officer believes you are (or are likely at any point to become) a public charge.

What Is a Public Charge?

A public charge is a person who relies upon government assistance. While this concept is not new in U.S. immigration law, the public charge rule changes the definition and allows immigration officers to exercise subjective judgment to determine whether the applicant is inadmissible/ineligible.

According to the new rule, a public charge is a person who has received one or more qualifying public benefits for more than 12 total months in a 36-month period. However, USCIS counts each type of benefit separately, so 6 months of using 2 different qualifying benefits actually becomes 12 months total.

Additionally, immigration officers will analyze the following factors:

  • Financial resources (e.g. income, assets, etc.)
  • Employment
  • Education/skills
  • Family ties/dependents
  • Age/health

What Benefits Does USCIS Consider?

USCIS primarily considers cash assistance when determining inadmissibility/ineligibility based on the public charge rule.

You may become ineligible or inadmissible if you applied for, received, or used any of the following types of benefits:

  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps)
  • Section 8 Housing or Project-Based Rental Assistance
  • Public housing
  • Medicaid (with certain exceptions)

USCIS cannot, however, render you inadmissible/ineligible due to your use of any of these forms of assistance:

  • Emergency medical treatment
  • Disaster relief
  • Certain nutrition, school lunch, or insurance programs for children
  • Foster care/adoption subsidies
  • Student/mortgage loans
  • Energy assistance
  • Short-term rehab, homeless shelters, or food pantries
  • Head Start

If you are a U.S. service member, you can use any type of benefit without fear of becoming ineligible/inadmissible.

How Does This Change the Application Process?

Because the public charge rule applies to most classes of immigrants and nonimmigrants, USCIS has replaced a wide range of applications with updated forms.

You will need to use a new version of your form if you are applying/petitioning for:

  • A nonimmigrant worker visa
  • A green card
  • Job portability for your employment visa
  • A change or extension of your nonimmigrant status
  • A waiver of grounds of inadmissibility
  • An affidavit of support
  • A fee waiver

Additionally, green card applicants will need to submit Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency. This form requires you to disclose information related to your use of/application for public benefits.

A Note About Dates

The DHS originally planned to implement the public charge rule on October 15, 2019. Because several courts enjoined it, it did not go into effect until February 24, 2020. Therefore, the public charge rule only applies to applications postmarked on or after February 24, 2020, and USCIS will only consider applications for/receipt of benefits on or after February 24, 2020. Applicants and petitioners should generally treat any mention of “October 15, 2019” as “February 24, 2020,” and USCIS will do the same.

Contact Our Firm for Additional Support with Your Application

If you are unsure how the new public charge rule could affect your eligibility, The Alagiri Immigration Law Firm is fully prepared to analyze your situation and provide personalized counsel. With 15+ years of combined experience, we have what it takes to help you navigate changing immigration policies and accomplish your goals as soon as possible.

Request your consultation with our team by calling (650) 931-2509 today.