PUBLIC CHARGE & THE CORONAVIRUS Edited by Thomas Esparza Immigration & Naturalization Specialist
Many immigrants living in the United States are eligible for COVID-19 pandemic unemployment benefits but are afraid to use them. Their fear is often misplaced.
HAS THE PUBLIC CHARGE RULE AFFECTED THE RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS?When the public charge rule was published, DHS admitted that many eligible immigrants would be afraid to use health benefits out of fear that it might affect their immigration status. The agency even declared that one likely outcome of the rule was “increased prevalence of communicable diseases” and “worse health outcomes.”
Many immigrants living in the United States are eligible for COVID-19 pandemic unemployment benefits but are afraid to use them.
Frequent callers to my office are afraid to file for unemployment and other government benefits for fear that the Trump administration’s public charge rule would hurt the immigration of their family. Many of these fears are unfounded and put lives at risk needlessly. Though the public charge rule was designed to make it harder for people of limited means to qualify for a non immigrant visa or green card it is not always the case.
I HAVE A GREEN CARD. CAN I USE GOVERNMENT SERVICES DUE COVID-19YES. The current public charge rule ONLY applies to people already in the United States who are SEEKING to obtain a green card, as well as those countries SEEKING A NON IMMIGRANT VISA to come or remain in the U.S. But it does NOT apply the FULL public charge test to those seeking to extend or change their nonimmigrant status.
Green cards holders do not need to worry about the public charge rule by using government services during the pandemic.
DOES FILING FOR UNEMPLOYMENT A PUBLIC BENEFIT THAT WILL PUT ME AT RISK UNDER PUBLIC CHARGE?Not every immigrant laid off due to COVID-19 will be eligible for unemployment. People seeking to file for unemployment generally must be legally authorized to work. Some states extend unemployment benefits to individuals with DACA, while others do not.
WILL RECEIVING GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR A CORONAVIRUS TEST PUT ME AT RISK UNDER PUBLIC CHARGE?No. Guidance posted on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website says that “USCIS will NEITHER consider testing, treatment, NOR preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination.”
This is true even if someone pays for the treatment through a benefit which would normally count against them. Again, this includes Medicaid.
The rule itself also EXEMPTS THE USE OF MEDICAID BENEFITS for treatment of an “emergency medical condition.” IMMIGRANTS SHOULD NOT WORRY ABOUT USING EMERGENCY MEDICAID if they become sick with the virus and need treatment.
COULD A PERIOD OF UNEMPLOYMENT DUE TO THE CORONAVIRUS PUT SOMEONE AT RISK UNDER PUBLIC CHARGE?MAYBE. The public charge rule operates like a wealth test. Immigrants who are laid off due to the coronavirus could have their diminished financial wellbeing counted against them when they apply for a green card in the future after having been forced to rely on public benefits to survive.
USCIS has indicated that individuals in that situation should provide additional evidence along with their application for a green card. You can explain that the hardship was due to COVID-19 and provide documentation to support your claim. YOUR IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY CAN HELP YOU PROVIDE THIS DOCUMENTATION
The agency says it will “take all such evidence into consideration in the totality of the [immigrant’s] circumstances,” indicating that they will likely provide leeway in that event. Consult an immigration specialist like Thomas Esparza Jr for the latest on how the CORVID 19 pandemic is impacting immigrants and non immigrants.
WHAT TIME IS IT?Now is NOT THE TIME for anyone in American to be afraid to go to a hospital or use vital benefits. EVERYONE needs resources to stay healthy and help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
USCIS SHOULD SUSPEND THE PUBLIC CARGE RULE AND NOT MOVE FORWARD WITH A MISUGIDED AND DANGEROUS WEALTH TEST DURING A PANDEMIC!
IT SHOULD BE SUSPENDED.