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FAQs for the New Public Charge Rule

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the new public charge rule mean for my case?

Under immigration law, an applicant may be denied immigration benefits if the officer believes the applicant will be a public charge in the future.

USCIS announced a new rule regarding the meaning of "public charge" that applies to individuals applying for adjustment of status (to become lawful permanent residents) or seeking to extend or change their nonimmigrant status.

The new rule will change the meaning of "public charge" to mean someone who the officer thinks is likely to receive certain public benefits for a period of more than one year within a three-year period. If the officer believes that you are likely to receive these benefits in the future, your application may be denied.

What type of public benefits may affect me?

You may be denied permanent residence (or extension/change of nonimmigrant status), if the officer believes you will be receiving the following benefits in the future for more than one year within a three-year period:

· Federal, state or local government cash benefit programs for income maintenance;

· Certain federal government housing assistance (Sections 8 and 9);

· Supplemental Security Income (SSI);

· Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF);

· Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);

· Medicaid, with certain exceptions, such as for emergency medical attention, benefits received by individuals under the age of 21 and pregnant women (or for a period of 60 days after the last day of pregnancy).

USCIS will not consider the following factors as part of its public charge determination:

· Tax credits;

· Medicaid for emergencies;

· School-based services or benefits for high school or younger;

· Benefits received while alien was under the age of 21;

· Benefits received for a woman during pregnancy (and 60 days after pregnancy ends);

· Benefits received while the applicant is in the armed forces or while their spouse or parent was in the armed forces;

· Benefits received if the applicant is in the armed forces at the time the adjustment of status application is filed or adjudicated;

· Benefits received if the applicant is the spouse or child of a member of the armed forces at the time the adjustment of status application is filed or adjudicated.

Who is exempt from the public charge rule?

The public charge ground does not apply to applicants who are exempt under the following classifications:

· Diversity Visa Program;

· Special Immigrant Visas;

· Domestic Violence ("VAWA");

· Widows or widowers;

· Refugees/asylees;

· Cuban Adjustment Act;

· NACARA;

· Haitian Adjustment;

· Registry Adjustments;

· Temporary Protected Status;

· Victims of Crime or Trafficking - U or T visas;

· Non-immigrants in A, C, G, NATO classification.

What factors may the officer consider?

Past use of public benefits alone is not enough for the officer to find that a person is a public charge. Instead, the officer must review different factors to determine if the applicant is likely to become a public charge, including the applicant's age, health, family status, education and skills:

· Age. An applicant is of working age (18-61) and able to find a job is considered a positive factor under the guidelines.

· Health. An applicant with a medical condition that requires extensive treatment may be required to show evidence of private health insurance or ability to pay medical costs.

· Family status. An officer may consider the size of the family or household and their financial contributions and assets.

· Education and skills. An officer may consider if the applicant can maintain lawful employment based on his or her education, experience, and skill level, including English proficiency. (The English language factor is being challenged in court.)

· Financial status. The applicant's own financial situation, including his or her assets, resources, and credit history may guide the officer in determining public charge. A new form is being created for this purpose. It is not published yet, but it appears to be lengthy and require extensive financial information.

Additionally, USCIS may consider significant factors (referred to as "heavily weighted" factors" under the guidelines) that will weigh heavily in favor, or against, a finding of public charge. These special factors include:

· Significant negative factors:

o Applicant who is not a full-time student and is authorized to work, but is unable to demonstrate employment or prospect of employment.

o Applicant who has received or been approved to receive one or more public benefits for more than one year within a three-year period.

o Applicant who has a medical condition that requires extensive care but is uninsured and unlikely to pay the medical costs.

· Significant positive factors

o Applicant (if authorized to work) or household members combined bring in a substantial amount of income (or have assets) above the federal poverty guidelines.

o Applicant has private health insurance.

What can I do to show that I will not be a public charge?

You may present any evidence to convince the officer that you are not likely to receive public benefits, this includes, but not limited to:

· Evidence of lawful employment or ability to maintain lawful employment

· If you have a medical condition requiring extensive care, evidence of private health insurance (except for subsidized coverage) or ability to pay medical costs

· Financial contributions and assets of your household

Under the new rule, USCIS will require that you file an additional form (Form I-944) that goes over your financial status. This form is not published yet.

If the officer believes you are public charge, the new rule authorizes the officer to request that you pay a bond amount of at least $8100 to allow you to obtain permanent residence. The decision to allow you to pay a bond is discretionary.

Because everyone's situation is different, we recommend that you contact an attorney to strategize regarding the documents you will need to overcome a public charge finding.

To contact our office for a consultation, please contact 214-251-8011, or click here to schedule an appointment to speak to one of our experienced immigration lawyers.

My family members, including my children, receive public assistance. Will that affect me?

It is important to know that the new rule does not affect the applicant if the applicant's family members are receiving public assistance, such as food stamps or other assistance for the children. It will only affect the applicant if he or she is listed as a beneficiary of the public benefit. The new rule should not prevent your family from seeking important public assistance, especially medical help, for which they are eligible.

I'm a lawful permanent resident, will the new rule affect me or my renewal of residence?

No, the new public charge rule only applies to individuals applying for lawful permanent residence or seeking to extend or change their nonimmigrant status.

However, if the government has ever requested that you reimburse it for any public assistance you may have received, but have failed to do so, that could present problems. It is advisable to speak to an attorney.

I'm applying for naturalization. Does the new rule affect me?

No, the new public charge rule only applies to individuals applying for lawful permanent residence or seeking to extend or change their nonimmigrant status.

However, if the government has ever requested that you reimburse it for any public assistance you may have received, but have failed to do so, that could present problems. It is advisable to speak to an attorney.

I'm applying for lawful permanent residence outside the U.S., does this rule affect me?

Not necessarily. At the moment, this new rule only affects applicants who are filing for status here in the U.S.

The State Department, which processes immigrant visas outside, has public charge rules that are similar to the new rule, but they are not exactly the same.

It is advisable to consult with an attorney about public charge concerns if you are applying for residence outside the country.

When does the new public charge rule go into effect?

The new rule will apply to applications for adjustment of status, or extensions/changes of nonimmigrant status, filed on or after October 15, 2019. If your application is postmarked before this date, your application will not be subject to the new rule.

Please note that there are several lawsuits in process that can suspend or eliminate the new public charge rule. Be sure to stay on top of developments by downloading our App - Lawpilot Guardian - or by following us through social media.

If you have any concerns about your financial status or public assistance, it is advisable to file your application prior to this date, assuming you are eligible to apply for your immigration benefit. Contact an attorney or accredited representative to determine if you are eligible to file your application now.

To contact our office for a consultation, please contact 214-251-8011, or click here to schedule an appointment to speak to one of our experienced immigration lawyers.

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