What are the changes to the public charge rules? The "public charge" ground of inadmissibility was designed to identify people who depend on the government as their main source of support. If the government determines a person is "likely at any time to become a public charge" in the future, it can deny admission to the U.S. or lawful permanent resident (or "green card" status).
On August 14, 2019, USCIS published a final rule amending regulations related to the public charge ground of inadmissibility. The final rule makes significant changes to the public charge ground of inadmissibility that will make it much harder for low and moderate income immigrants to obtain lawful permanent resident status (green card). It goes into effect on October 15, 2019. On October 9, 2019, USCIS published new versions of several forms reflecting the changes.
The final rule redefines a "public charge" as a non-citizen who receives one or more public benefits, for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period (i.e. the receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months). The regulations applies a forward-looking test --- looking at whether a person, in the "totality of the circumstances" is more likely than not to become a "public charge" in the future.
The rule expands the list of public assistance programs that may be considered as negative factors in a "public charge" determination.
Groups not submit to the public charge rule include: refugees, asylees, survivors of trafficking, domestic violence, or other serious crimes (T or U visa applicants/holders),. VAWA self-petitioners, special immigrant juveniles, certain people paroled into the U.S. as well as other "humanitarian" immigrants, and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) are not subject to the public charge test when they apply for U.S. citizenship. What types of benefits and circumstances are treated negatively under the new regulation? Prior history of benefits receipt, a minimum income threshold (earning less than 125% of the federal poverty level), being a child or a senior, having certain health conditions, limited English ability, less than a high school education, a poor credit history, and other factors.
Benefits considered income the following:
-any federal or state cash assistance for income maintenance, including TANF, SSI, and general assistance programs;
-Medicaid (with exceptions for including coverage for emergency services, children under 21 years old, pregnant women and 60 days of post-partum services);
-Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called "food stamps");
-Federal Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers and Section 8 project-based rental assistance.
Important to note-- This rule is not retroactive. That means that benefits (apart from cash or long-term care at government expense) that are used before the rule is effective on October 15, 2019, will NOT be considered in the public charge determination.