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USCIS Can Now Reject Applicants Who Use Public Benefits

While the U.S. federal government has always enshrined self-sufficiency within its immigration laws, a recent rule has taken this standard to a new level. The Supreme Court allowed USCIS to implement this rule when it lifted nationwide injunctions on January 27th.

Beginning on February 24, 2020, immigration officers can reject entry, visa petitions, and green card applications if they believe the person is or is likely to become a public charge. This rule gives officers an unprecedented level of authority based on relatively subjective factors.

What Is a Public Charge?

According to USCIS, a public charge is a person who relies upon publicly funded benefits. Officers will evaluate the following factors to determine this ground of inadmissibility:

  • Income, assets, and other financial resources
  • Educational background
  • Family ties
  • Age and health
  • Past and present employment
  • Use of or application for public benefits (e.g. cash assistance, Medicaid for long-term care, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and more) on or after February 24, 2020

Because the immigration officer will assess these elements in a holistic manner, you will not necessarily be ineligible unless you possess a range of factors indicating public charge inadmissibility.

Furthermore, USCIS will not consider every type of public benefit. Benefits for emergency medical treatment, for example, are exempt from this evaluation, as are job training programs and educational assistance. Visit the USCIS public charge page for a full list of exempt benefits.

Certain classes of immigrants may be exempt from public charge inadmissibility as well. You may be exempt if:

While you may not know for certain whether USCIS will reject your petition or application, learning as much as you can about this new ground of inadmissibility is a powerful way to prepare. At Nathan Christensen P.C., we aim to keep all our clients informed about key changes to immigration policy. As we learn more about the public charge rule, we will distill important information to you and change the way we handle your case.

For additional information about the public charge rule or to speak with an experienced immigration attorney about your situation, contact our firm at (972) 497-1017 today.