The U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling in favor of lifting nationwide injections placed on the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds rule. The ‘Public Charge’ rules will make many applicants inadmissible if an individual was “likely at any time to become a public charge.”
USCIS will implement ‘Public Charge’ for all applications and petitions submitted on or after February 24, 2020. The Public Charge requirement has been a policy for a long time but was never defined as expressly.
The new guidance is applied to those who are “more likely than not” to receive any of nine benefits for 12 or more combined months within any 36 months. Receipt of two public benefits in one month counts as two months. Once an immigrant is labeled a ‘public charge,’ they could be denied green cards, visas, and other forms of legal immigration status.
Previous guidance was applied to applicants who might become “primarily dependent” on any of the designated programs.
What to know about Inadmissibility on Public Charge grounds
- The final rule is applicable in all fifty U.S. states (previously Illinois was excluded).
- DHS can only enforce the rule to public benefits received on or after February 24, 2020
- Updated forms, submission instructions, and Policy Guidance will be available after
February 3, 2020.
- USCIS has the authority to issue public charge bonds for applications filing an adjustment of status.
- Every immigrant filing for an extension or change of status will have to prove that they have not received public benefits since obtaining nonimmigrant status.
The updated regulation shifts away from the petitioner/sponsor’s income when determining public charge inadmissibility and instead focuses on a ‘wealth test’ that asses the following:
- Family status
- Financial status
No single factor (other than the lack of affidavit support, if required) will determine whether an individual is a public charge.
Programs that are likely to be viewed as those which would make a noncitizen inadmissible as a public charge include:
- Cash assistance for income maintenance through Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Cash assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program
- State or local cash assistance programs for income maintenance
The Department of Homeland Security also expanded the list of designated state and federal programs considered in the “totality of the circumstances” public charge test.
The final regulation adds five new programs to this list:
- Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP);
- Non-emergency Medicaid;
- Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program;
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance;
- Public Housing.
Previously, the agency only considered:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF);
- State general relief or general assistance;
- Medicaid program that covers institutional long-term care.
In limited circumstances, USCIS will exercise discretionary authority to offer an otherwise inadmissible foreign national the opportunity to post a public charge bond. The final rule sets the minimum bond amount at $8,100. However, the actual bond amount will depend on individual circumstances.
It should be noted, that in most cases, lawful permanent residents who possess a green card cannot be denied U.S. citizenship for lawfully receiving any public benefits for which they are eligible.