Everything You Need to Know About the Public Charge Rule

Law Office of Kelli Y. Allen, PLLC

According to recent research by the Cato Institute, immigrants are less likely to use public benefits, and those who do receive them generally receive less than native-born Americans. Nevertheless, a prevailing misconception portrays immigrants as highly dependent on government assistance.

As a result, the Trump administration has passed legislation designed to curb the rate of immigration into the United States. The latest of these policies is the public charge rule, which went into effect on February 24, 2020.

A public charge is someone who relies on publicly funded benefits because they aren’t self-sufficient. The public charge ground of inadmissibility has existed in U.S. immigration policy since the 1800s, but the new rule adjusts the definition and grants officers a greater ability to deny applications based on subjective analysis of the applicant’s overall situation.

How Will USCIS Determine Whether You Are a Public Charge?

According to the new rule, you may be a public charge if you received certain publicly funded benefits for more than 12 months in any 36-month period. Unfortunately, USCIS counts each type of benefit individually. For example, if you received two types of benefits for 8 months, you technically accumulated 16 months of total benefit usage (8 months of one benefit plus 8 months of the other).

Not every benefit, however, will allow USCIS to consider you a public charge. Here are a few benefits you can use without jeopardizing your eligibility:

  • Any assistance for disaster relief or emergency medical conditions
  • National school lunch programs
  • Homeless shelters/food pantries
  • Student loans
  • Mortgages
  • Any benefits under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • Medicaid (if you are under 21, you are currently pregnant, or you were pregnant up to 60 days prior)

USCIS will also consider other factors, such as your age/health, financial resources, skills, employment, education, and more. While no single factor can determine if an applicant is a public charge, the officer will develop a conclusion from all factors to decide whether the applicant is or is likely at any point to become a public charge.

Critics of the public charge rule say this degree of decision-making authority is unprecedented. Furthermore, some fear that the open-ended nature of analysis opens doors for systematic prejudice.

Will the Public Charge Rule Affect Your Application?

If you are applying for entry, a nonimmigrant visa, a visa extension, or permanent residency (a green card), USCIS will likely evaluate your application for evidence of public charge inadmissibility.

You are safe from this evaluation, however, if you:

  • Came to the U.S. as a refugee/asylum seeker
  • Applied for/received a T or U visa (for victims of trafficking or other crimes)
  • Are applying under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
  • Are an Afghan or Iraqi with a special immigrant visa
  • Are a Special Immigrant Juvenile
  • Successfully acquired a waiver of inadmissibility

Additionally, you can use any public benefits if you are a U.S. servicemember.

Let Us Help You Determine Your Next Move

At the Law Office of Kelli Y. Allen, PLLC, we have a thorough understanding of the public charge rule and how it may affect each of our clients. If you need fully personalized, high-powered legal support, our team is ready to stand by your side and figure out the best possible plan of action. We are passionate about helping individuals and families establish the foundations they need for a better future.

We are more than happy to address all of your concerns. To request your in-person consultation, contact us online or call our firm directly at (704) 870-0340 today.

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