The Public Charge Rule is now in effect, following two U.S. Supreme Court decisions lifting nationwide injunctions imposed last year. The Public Charge Rule (“PRC”) dramatically expands existing U.S. laws and regulations regarding the vetting of immigrant applicants. The Public Charge Rule affects people applying for visas and green cards from inside the United States; there is a different rule for those applying outside the United States.
The Public Charge Rule: Altering the Immigration Process
The PRC requires immigrants to demonstrate that they haven’t relied on a public assistance program for at least the previous 12-month period. Specifically, the PRC will consider if applicants are reliant on any of the following programs:
- Cash assistance programs such as Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or corresponding state/local government programs;
- Section 8 Housing Assistance or Rental Assistance;
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance;
- Medicaid; or
- Public Housing.
The PRC does not apply to asylum seekers, refugees, petitioners under the Violence Against Woman Act, Afghans and Iraqis admitted with special visas, and some U and T visa holders.
Further, the PRC exempts specific public benefits programs. For example, immigrant officials will not consider Medicaid assistance provided to women during pregnancy or by an immigrant who is under 21. The rule does not consider Medicaid benefits received for an emergency medical condition or benefits provided pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The new rule also does not affect children who receive school lunches while in elementary or middle school (i.e., below high school). Finally, the rule also exempts servicemembers who receive public benefits.
Adjusting Immigration Status Under the Public Charge Rule
The best way for immigrant applicants to demonstrate that the PRC does not apply to them is to show a history of employment and eligibility to continue to work. To also have income and assets that is 250 percent of the federal poverty level (which is about $31,900 for a single-family household or $76,000 for a family of four). The government will also review how the applicant receives health benefits, for example, if they can afford insurance on their own or if they rely on tax credits through the Affordable Care Act. The PRC should not affect immigrants who are currently employed in a stable working environment, and who can demonstrate anticipated continued employment.