More on Public Charge, Part One


I have posted about the toughened Public Charge rule of the Trump Administration, which went into effect in February but has been to some degree suspended during the pandemic. I asked Prem Kumar of Visa Tutor to describe how he sees its impact.

Public Charge is an immigration law provision which requires an immigrant or green card applicant to be self-sufficient or have a sponsoring family member or organization. The goal is to only grant a visa or green card to those applicants who are not likely to fall upon government financial assistance in the future.

Public charge laws apply to all immigrant visas, some non-immigrant visas, and nearly half a million green card applicants, with certain exemptions. Historically, it accounts for 25% of visa denials, where officers believe the immigrant does not have adequate sponsorship in the US, or a high “likelihood of becoming a public charge”.

To put the new version of the Rule in context, In just a single year, about 25% of U.S.-born citizens receive a benefit included in the final rule’s public charge definition. Over the 1997-2017 period, some 41% to 48% received one of the benefits included in the Rule’s new public charge definition.

State Department consular officers abroad and USCIS officers ask about:

Income The applicant or sponsor is compared to the Federal Poverty Guidelines. They must be the minimum 125% income level, however, officers are allowed to require up to 250%.

Health insurance  Although it’s not an automatic disqualification not to be covered, the language in the “Final Rule” makes it clear that it is a “heavily weighted negative factor” in the assessment.

History of Means-tested benefits  the U.S. can reject any applicant who has used means-tested benefits such as SNAP, TANF, some Medicaid, or other cash assistance. It even allows officers to determine if the applicant is “more likely than not” to require such benefits.

Disclosure of background information The officer is required to ask for financial status such as loans, unpaid debts, assets, even child support, and so on.

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