On Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its long-feared proposed new rule on who constitutes a “public charge.”
The immigration laws allow DHS to reject applicants for permanent residence, aka possessing a “green cards”, who are “likely to become a public charge.” In the past, this has meant that most applicants had to obtain a financial sponsor as part of their application for residence and were barred for at least 10 years from needs-based public assistance.
The new rule greatly expands the grounds for finding applicants ineligible to gain permanent residence if they receive public assistance. Before addressing these changes, though, I want to discuss who is not affected by this proposed new rule.
This rule does not affect those who are already permanent residents. It will have no impact on those applying for citizenship. It will only have consequences for new applicants for permanent residence. It also does not affect refugees, asylum seekers, survivors of trafficking, victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes (T or U visa applicants/holders), VAWA self-petitioners, special immigrant juveniles (SIJS), and certain parolees.
The proposed rule is not currently in effect. A public comment period of 60 days must take place before it can be published as a final rule.
Under the proposal, when considering a grant of permanent residence, DHS will look to see if the applicant received any of the following forms of government assistance more than 60 days after the final rule is published:
- Medicaid (except for “emergency Medicaid” and certain disability services related to education)
- Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps)
- Benefits provided for institutionalization for long-term care
- Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance
- Public Housing
Receiving one of these benefits will not automatically disqualify an applicant, but it will create a difficult hurdle.
There are many other federal programs that we worried would also be covered under public charge considerations, but those did not make it into the proposed rule. Those forms of assistance NOT covered include:
- Emergency medical assistance
- Disaster relief
- National school lunch or school breakfast programs
- Foster care and adoption
- Head Start
- Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP or SCHIP)
- Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit
- Subsidized health insurance under the Affordable Care Act
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Housing assistance
- Energy benefits
I will go into more depth on this proposed change later in the week, but there are a few important takeaways today:
- This is only a proposed rule, it is not in effect. There is no reason for anyone to stop receiving public assistance right now.
- Even if and when it becomes a final rule, people will still have 60 days to drop their benefits, if they choose to.
- This only affects those who are likely to apply for permanent residence in the future. If someone is already a permanent resident, it will have no impact on that person.
Note: Thanks to CLINIC for supplying some of the information for this article.