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New Federal Guidelines Proposed for Public Charge Inadmissibility

Posted on in Immigration

New Federal Guidelines Proposed for Public Charge InadmissibilityOne of the biggest concerns for people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. is the chance that they will be ruled inadmissible for one reason or another. U.S. authorities might reject your application for an immigration visa because of your criminal history, medical issues, or the risk that you will be unable to financially support yourself and wind up living on government assistance, which would make you a “public charge.”

Definition of Public Charge Inadmissibility

In simple language, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines a public charge as a person who is primarily dependent on the government for food, shelter, and similar basic needs. A person deemed likely to become a public charge will not be admitted to the U.S. nor will an adjustment of status be granted to them.

However, current immigration law is vaguer on defining whether an immigrant may become a public charge. The Immigration and Naturalization Act is the governing federal law. Section 212(a)(4) states that “Any alien who, in the opinion of [U.S. immigration authorities] is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible.” The law further states that the following factors should be used to determine whether a person applying for admission to the U.S. or adjustment of status is likely to be financially self-sufficient: age, health, family status, assets, education, and work skills.  

Proposed New Rules for Determining Self-Sufficiency

USCIS has proposed new, more specific rules to determine whether a visa applicant is likely to become a public charge. These rules may go into effect at some time in 2019. 

Under the new rules, an alien would be presumed not likely to become a public charge if they can show income of at least 2.5 times the Federal Poverty Guidelines for their household size. For an individual, this requires a minimum annual income of $31,225 in 2019 (excluding people who plan to live in Alaska or Hawaii, as these states have a higher minimum). If the applicant is also supporting their spouse or a child, the minimum annual income for a two-person household is $42,275.

An alien would be presumed likely to become a public charge if the individual: 

  • Is likely to receive, or has received, more than $1,821 in a 12-month period in cash benefits, food stamps, or Section 8 vouchers / rental housing assistance. These benefits are considered “monetizable” because they can be easily sold to or used by someone other than the intended recipient;
  • Is likely to receive, or has received, any of the following types of benefits for more than 12 months out of a 36-month period: Medicaid, Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, or Public Housing. These benefits are considered non-monetizable; or
  • Is likely to receive, or has received, some combination of the two above types of benefits for longer than nine months.

In addition to their history of receiving or their qualification for any of the above forms of public assistance, these additional factors would also be weighed:

  • Whether the alien is authorized to work but is not currently employed and has no reasonable prospect of future employment; and
  • Whether the alien has been diagnosed with a medical condition that is likely to require institutionalization at government expense or that is likely to interfere with their ability to financially support themselves. 

These revised guidelines should lead to more consistent determinations of public charge inadmissibility. 

Contact a Stamford Immigration Lawyer

Many people seeking an immigration visa have concerns about their financial situation. You may also be concerned about the financial support you are committing to provide when you sponsor someone for immigration. Only a licensed Fairfield County immigration lawyer can provide accurate and reliable answers to your questions. At Gonzalez Law Office, LLC, we focus our work almost entirely on immigration law. Call us at 203-323-1440. 

Sources:

https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/public-charge

https://www.uscis.gov/legal-resources/proposed-change-public-charge-ground-inadmissibility

https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines

Fairfield County Bar Association Connecticut Bar Association American Immigration Lawyers Association Connecticut American Immigration Lawyers Association
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