Disclaimer: This is general information. This is not legal advice. For information pertaining to a specific case, talk to an immigration attorney or BIA-accredited representative.
What is public charge and what does the announcement mean:
As of now nothing has changed. However, on September 22, 2018 the Trump administration released proposed regulation that aims to redefine the legal term ‘public charge’ with the intent of blocking green cards for low-income immigrants.
The ‘public charge’ test has been part of the immigration process for decades. It is designed to identify people who may depend on government benefits as their main source of support. Under current law, immigrants can be prevented from obtaining a green card on public charge grounds if they have received, or are likely to receive, public benefits in the form of cash benefits or need long term care. The government must believe the immigrant is “primarily dependent” on these benefits to be declared a public charge.
Does this apply to all immigrants:
No public charge does not apply to all immigrants, the following is a list of immigrants that it does not impact:
- Refugees and asylees
- VAWA self-petitioners and their derivatives
- T or U visa beneficiaries
- Individuals applying for or re-registering for Temporary Protected Status
- Amerasian immigrants
- Afghan and Iraqi special immigrants
- Cuban and Haitian entrants
- NACARA beneficiaries
- Special Immigrant Juveniles
- Individuals applying for adjustment though the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act
- LPRs applying for U.S. citizenship.
What will change if this goes into effect:
Immigrants can currently avoid being deemed a public charge if their sponsor—often a family member with U.S. citizenship or a green card—submits an ‘affidavit of support’ agreeing to financially support them. The proposed regulations would change this and require that an immigrant make at least 250% above the federal poverty level, disregarding their sponsor’s affidavit of support and income. According to mamarising.com public charge would, “Increase the income line for applicants who hope to overcome the “public charge” test. People earning under $31,000 annually for a family of 4 would be weighed negatively. And people would need to earn over $63,000 annually for a family of 4 to be weighed positively, or overcome other negative factors.”`
Furthermore the proposed regulations will deem an immigrant a public charge if they are receiving any of the following public benefits:
- Benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps
- Section 8 housing assistance or rental assistance
- Medicaid benefits (except for emergency Medicaid or certain school or disability-based benefits for children)
- Premium and cost-sharing subsidies under Medicare Part D
- Subsidized housing under Housing Act of 1937
Getting food stamps or Medicaid coverage for a US citizen child will not be considered as a public charge.
Additional changes include (mamarising.org) :
- Apply a similar test to: 1) requests to extend a non-immigrant visas (e.g, stay longer in the U.S. with your visitor’s visa), and 2) requests to change your non-immigrant status (e.g., change from a student visa to an employment visa).
- Sets forth standards for immigration officials to consider when evaluating your individual case.
- For example, people with limited English speaking skills or with physical or mental health conditions that could affect their ability to work, attend school or care for themselves will be viewed negatively in the “totality of circumstances” test.
- Elevates the use of public charge bonds for people applying for a green card.
- People who are deemed a “public charge,” because of their income, a health condition or other factors may be required to pay a minimum of $10,000 to enter the U.S. and would risk losing this bond if they use any benefits listed above.
How will this impact immigrants?
There is no doubt that this will negatively affect immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) admits that many U.S. citizens will be affected by the rule because immigrant families will no longer take advantage of benefits. The agency’s list of negative effects includes “worse health outcomes … especially for pregnant or breastfeeding women, infants, or children,” as well as “increased use of emergency rooms,” “increased prevalence of communicable diseases,” “increased rates of poverty and housing instability; and reduced productivity and educational attainment.”
For now if you are an immigrant receiving benefits, you do not need to discontinue using those benefits. This has not gone into effect yet, and IF it does it will not go into effect for some time.
What can we do:
Stay informed. Continue to check back on our website for the most recent updates regarding public charge. Start talking to others about what is going on. Share this information immediately.
Key Points to Include:
- Our lives in this country should be defined by how we contribute to our communities—not how much money we have. The new “public charge” regulation puts the wealthy ahead of families who have waited years for a green card.
- The regulation would make immigrant families afraid to seek access to healthy food, health care, and housing. This fear would extend far beyond people who may be subject to the “public charge” test. It would harm entire communities as well as the infrastructure that serves all of us.
- The regulation assumes you can accurately divide people into permanent classes of contributors and non-contributors. This is totally inconsistent with the history of immigration in our country.
- If it moves forward, the regulation will have ripple effects on the health, development, and economic outcomes of generations to come.
If you are a service provider please refer to the NILC talking points on how to discuss public charge with immigrants and their families.
American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Quicktake Video
MIRA Fact sheet
Government Press Release