The ‘Public Charge Rule’ – An Explanation and Advice

On August 14, 2019, USCIS published a new rule about a ground of inadmissibility called “likely to become a public charge.” The new rule applies to immigrants who are seeking admission into the USA, applying for green cards in the USA through the Adjustment of Status Process, and to temporary nonimmigrants who seek to extend or change status.  While lawful permanent residents (LPRs) seeking to naturalize do not have to show whether they are not a public charge, the issue CAN still come up in two ways:

  1. If LPRs gained their green cards unlawfully (were not admissible at the time of getting their green cards) OR
  2. Since obtaining LPR status, were outside the USA for more than six months and might have received some public benefits depending upon the situation.

The rule does NOT apply to anyone applying for the above benefits BEFORE October 15, 2019 when it goes into effect unless receiving cash assistance or long term institutional care in some cases.  The rule does NOT apply to anyone who was receiving other public benefits before October 15, 2019, and it does NOT apply to family members who obtain benefits even if the immigrant applied for the family members but not themselves.  This is a very complex rule and the above is not complete information about it. Attorneys and nonprofit organizations are still examining the very long rule. If you have questions, get more help from any of the law firms or agencies on our referral list.

For now, please keep the following in mind:

  1.  Keep getting the benefits your family needs to stay strong, productive and stable such as health care, nutrition and food, and housing. Take your kids to the doctor, feed and shelter them.
  2. Fight fear with facts. The government is trying to scare a lot of people.  Get educated. Attend Know Your Rights presentations around town or online.
  3. Even if you received public benefits targeted by this law, that is not the end of the analysis the immigration officer has to make. The immigration officer will look at a variety of factors, and no single factor can be used to decide your case. They will look at all of your circumstances, such as age, health, education and training, work history or ability to get a job in the future and other positive factors.
  4. Many public benefit programs have privacy protections and your information can only be shared in a few limited situations.
  5. When applying for public or immigration benefits, NEVER lie. Always tell the truth.
  6. Get legal help for any changed circumstances and/or questions you may have.  Especially if you naturalize and plan to sponsor other relatives when you become a citizen, the new public charge rule makes the immigration process much more difficult for both the sponsor and the intended immigrant. Don’t try to do this yourself. Get legal help.

This is not over! Many organizations and individuals are fighting this rule. Already, several law suits have been filed to challenge this law and more are coming. Some legislators are working on bills to change the law.

Do you want to help OneAmerica in our fight against this law? You can help by volunteering with us, becoming a community organizer, help us fundraise and/or attend our events. Please complete the OneAmerica Volunteer Sign-in Sheet and one of our staff will get back to you with more details.

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