USCIS publishes Public Charge Rule

On August 12, 2019 USCIS published an Advance Copy of the final Public Charge Rule. The formal version will be published on August 14, 2019 and will take effect 60 days later, i.e., October 13, 2019. It will apply to applications filed on or after that date, and to benefits received on or after that date. It will not apply to benefits received before the effective date of the rule.

Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that non-citizens are inadmissible to the United States if they are “likely to become a public charge.” This law applies both to immigrants and nonimmigrants. The new rule states a person will be considered a “public charge” if they receive benefits from certain listed sources during 12 months in any 36 month period. These sources include:

  • Cash benefits for income maintenance
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Most forms of Medicaid
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Section 8 Rental Assistance
  • Subsidized public housing.

There are numerous exceptions to the new rule. The new rule does not apply to refugees, asylees, special immigrant juveniles, and victims of domestic violence. It does not apply to the families of persons serving in the military of the United States.

Also, USCIS will not consider benefits received (1) for the treatment of an emergency medical condition (2) as services provided in connection with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (3) as school based services (4) by persons under the age of 21 and (5) by pregnant women.

Significantly, the new rule will apply not only to persons who actually receive these benefits, but also to anyone who USCIS believes is “likely” to receive such benefits in the future. In make this judgment, USCIS will consider the person’s age, health, family status, assets, resources, education, and skills.

Our law firm joins the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and all immigration advocates in denouncing the new rule. The new rule will needlessly restrict many deserving people from seeking lawful permanent resident status. The rule will have a particularly harmful impact on families wishing to bring parents and other relatives to the United States. The rule will also deter many persons living legally in the United States from seeking benefits they deserve, and that they need to thrive.