The Trump administration continues to make changes to the country’s immigration laws, all with the goal of making it harder for foreign nationals to come and stay in the U.S. The most recent change? A change to public charge, which was passed by the Department of Homeland Security in August 2019. The rule takes effect on October 15, 2019. Our Austin immigration lawyer looks at the changes.
What is the Current Law?
As you probably already know, the United States government closely examines foreign nationals seeking a green card or certain visas to determine whether the applicant is likely to “primarily” rely on government assistance once they get into the country. Current immigration law requires that immigration officials examine certain factors. One important piece of evidence is the affidavit signed by a sponsor which indicates that the sponsor will financially support the foreign national.
Immigration officials also check whether an applicant has used cash aid or long-term institutionalized care in the past. If so, the applicant needs to convince the officer that they will not use it in the future.
Under existing policy, immigration officers do not consider whether the applicant used food stamps, publicly funded health care, or housing assistance as part of determining whether it is likely a foreign national will become a public charge.
What is the New Rule?
Immigration officers will no longer need to determine whether the foreign national will become “primarily dependent” on government support. Instead, the new rules define “public charge” as receiving any one of several benefits for a total of 12 months in a 36-month period. So if you received food stamps for 12 straight months, then this fact works against you.
The new rule also expands what government programs an immigration officer will consider in determining whether a person will become a public charge. Under the new rule, SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and housing assistance are all considered. All cash aid, even that provided by the state or local governments, is considered as well. Consequently, immigration officials will probably find that more foreign nationals could become public charges.
Will the New Rule Affect Your Case?
This is hard to say. Importantly, whether you have received prior benefits has always been only one factor considered. It will remain only one factor. Others include:
- Financial status
- Employment history and skills
- Family size
Also, applicants can continue to access disaster relief and emergency medical care without having it impact the analysis.
What Are the Most Important Factors?
When analyzing your own case, it is important to realize that not all factors are considered equivalent. The new rule identifies certain factors as “heavily weighted negative” factors and others as “heavily weighted positive” ones.
Receiving public benefits for more than 12 months in a 3-year period is now a heavily weighted negative factor. Look at your own benefit history.
Also consider whether you have heavily weighted positive factors, one of which is having an income of at least 250% of the poverty level. This can balance any negative ones.
Contact an Austin Immigration Attorney Today to Schedule a Consultation
It can be hard to analyze your chances of being admitted into the U.S. or receiving a green card. So many factors are considered by the government. Meeting with an experienced Austin immigration lawyer is a good first step.
Contact Michael G. Murray, P.A. at (512) 215-4407 or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation.
View more contact information here: Austin Immigration Attorney.