On February24, 2020, USCIS will impose the new Public Charge rules on most immigration applications based on inadmissibility ground under INA section 212(a)(4). A new Form I-944 must be submitted with all applications so the government may determine if an applicant is inadmissible.
Under these new rules, the federal government will consider a variety of factors as to whether a nonimmigrant or an immigrant is likely to become a public charge at any time in the future. If so, they will be ineligible to receive a green card or even a nonimmigrant visa. The rule does not apply to U.S. citizens, asylees, refugees, active duty or reservist military personnel or VAWA recipients. For a complete list of classes not subject to this new rule, please see https://www.uscis.gov/legal-resources/final-rule-public-charge-ground-inadmissibility
Any public benefit, including Medicaid, that is received directly by the applicant not a member of any exempt classes mentioned above will be considered as a negative factor. Some of the exceptions are if the benefit was for an emergency medical condition, covered under the Disabilities Education Act, persons under 21, or pregnant women.
Some of the public benefits which will trigger inadmissibility under this new rule are:
- Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Federal, state or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” in the state context, but which may exist under other names)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or formerly called “Food Stamps”)
- Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)
- Public Housing under section 9 the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. 1437 et seq.
- Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions)
Factors that the government will consider if inadmissibility is an issue are:
- Family status;
- Assets, resources, and financial status;
- Education and skills;
- Prospective immigration status;
- Expected period of admission; and
- Sufficient Form I-864, when required under section 212(a)(4)(C) or (D) of the INA.
Green card applicants who find themselves subject to the new rules may post a bond amount of $8100 or higher depending on their particular circumstances. In the alternative, the federal government may consider a waiver of the public charge grounds of inadmissibility – approved at their discretion. Nonimmigrants who have received public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36 month period while in the U.S. are ineligible for change of status or an extension of their stay.