New USCIS Public Charge Rule Starts on February 24, 2020
USCIS Public Charge Rule
UPDATE: USCIS announced that the Public Charge Rule will go into effect for applications postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.
USCIS has announced all applications for green cards and non-immigrant visas postmarked on February 24, 2020 or later will be subject to the new Public Charge Rule. Under this rule, those applying for a green card or visa through USCIS will be required to show that they are not likely to become a public charge in the future.
What visa and green card categories are affected by the public charge rule?
Both green cards and non-immigrant visas will be subject to the public charge rule.
What is the public charge rule?
The public charge rule is split into two parts: 1) whether an applicant has previously taken certain government benefits; and 2) whether an applicant is likely to become a public charge in the future.
Previous government benefits
USCIS defines a "public charge" as someone who has taken one or more public benefits for more than twelve (12) months in the aggregate in the 36 month period preceding the time of application. This means that if an applicant took two benefits in one month, that will count as two months. Keep in mind that this applies to benefits taken on our after February 24, 2020. Public benefits include:
- Federal, state, local or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- General Assistance (GA)
- Food Stamps, aka Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance
- Public Housing under the Housing Act of 1937
- Non-emergency federally-funded Medicaid
The aforementioned do not include:
- Medicaid used to treat an emergency medical condition
- Benefits funded by Medicaid under the "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act"
- School-based benefits to applicants who are at, or below, the oldest age eligible for secondary education as determined under state or local law
- Medicaid benefits received by an applicant who was under 21 years of age
- Medicaid benefits received by a pregnant woman during the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy
Certain benefits received prior to February 24, 2020 must still be disclosed, including: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), cash, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), General Assistance (GA), and benefits from long-term institutionalization.
Examples of other public benefits that are not subject to the Public Charge Rule include:
- Disaster relief
- Emergency medical assistance
- Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children
- School Breakfast & Lunch
- Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)
- Transportation vouchers
- Non-cash TANF benefits
- Tax credits (including those under the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Affordable Care Act)
- Pell grants and student loans
Likelihood of being a public charge
The other factor USCIS will examine is whether someone applying for a green card or visa will likely become a public charge in the future. They will be considered a public charged and therefore deemed inadmissible if they are likely to receive public benefits for more than 12 months in a 36-month period in the future. A determination of likelihood of future public charge will be based on the totality of the applicant's circumstances, and it appears to be based on a "preponderance" showing. USCIS will consider the following factors:
- General health
- Family status
- Assets, resources, and financial status
- Educational and skill level
- Prospective immigration status (i.e. work visa, student, etc.)
- Expected period of admission (i.e., 6 months versus 3 years)
What proof do I need to show that I will not be a public charge?
It is too early right now to determine how USCIS is going to assess whether an applicant will likely become a public charge. However, the following is a tentative list of documents that those applying for green cards may need to gather under the Public Charge Rule:
- Educational diplomas, transcripts and certifications
- Credit report and credit score
- Documents showing any assets (bank statements, stocks, etc.)
- Documents showing any debts (student loans, mortgage, etc.)
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof of ability to speak English (certificates, diplomas, etc.)