Green card applicants beware — the new “public charge” immigration rule that will deny green cards to applicants who are likely to use public benefits is law in 2020. This new rule will target applicants in need of public benefits like housing vouchers, food stamps, and Medicaid. Immigrants currently seeking green card status will need to plan for these changes.
The public charge rule has actually existed since 1882 but undergone several changes since that time, especially over the last few years. In its current form, it assesses an applicant’s financial independence, informing the approval process based off the likelihood that applicant will need public assistance. Here’s what current candidates need consider:
- Use of government benefits in the past: If an applicant has previously used benefits including food stamps, Section 8 housing, non-emergency Medicaid, federal housing subsidies or status quo benefits for a total of 12 months, their application could be denied.
- Potential use of government benefits in the future: Several factors are weighed in this assessment including age, current state of the applicant’s health, size of their family, level of their education, employment history and financial status.
- Available financial resources: Applicants are now required to submit a “Declaration of Self-Sufficiency” that details their income against current guidelines for Federal Poverty. For a couple with no children, a household income of roughly $41,150 is required, whereas a family of five will need an income of at least $73,550.
Understanding the rights of immigrants
There are a few exemptions to this new rule, including refugees, asylees, individuals who have experienced domestic violence and some other special categories. It can be beneficial for immigrants applying for a green card to seek the services of an experienced immigration lawyer to review the application materials. Understanding how an individual application is likely to be assessed will help inform the necessary next steps for hopeful immigrants and their families.