For many years, immigrants seeking admission to the United States or an adjustment of status have needed to demonstrate that they will be self-sufficient, or in other words, that they will not be a “public charge” reliant on tax-funded public benefits. This issue has been under much debate over the last two years, with the Trump administration’s Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility final rule taking effect in February 2020 and subsequently being challenged multiple times in federal courts.
Most recently, the question of the public charge rule’s constitutionality is being taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, at least for the time being, the rule remains in effect and can have significant implications on visa and green card proceedings. Further complicating matters is the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential effects on immigrants’ health and employment. As such, it is important for immigrants to work with an attorney who can help them understand how the public charge rule may affect their case.
When an immigrant applies for admission to the U.S., extension of their stay, or adjustment of their status to lawful permanent residence, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considers a variety of factors to determine whether or not the immigrant is likely to rely on public benefits. Some of the most important factors include the person’s age, health, financial resources, education and skills, and family status.
Under the recently instituted public charge inadmissibility rule, an applicant may be denied if they are expected to rely on public benefits including Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, certain forms of food and housing assistance, and most Medicaid benefits.
The process of determining public charge inadmissibility could appear to force some immigrants into the difficult position of avoiding federally funded preventive care or treatment for COVID-19 out of fear that receiving it could affect their immigration status. However, it is important to note that under the current rule, Medicaid benefits for emergency treatment are not considered in admissibility decisions. USCIS has also clarified that Medicaid benefits for testing, treatment, or vaccinations for COVID-19 will not negatively impact an immigrant’s determination.
Health precautions and economic impacts of COVID-19 have also affected many immigrants’ employment status and pursuit of education, potentially making it more likely that they will need to rely temporarily on public assistance. However, USCIS has stated that an immigrant’s explanation for their unexpected hardship will be considered as part of the determination process.
In these unique and uncertain times, a knowledgeable and experienced attorney is especially important for immigrants pursuing a visa or adjustment of status. At Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices, we can help you prepare your application and advise you on questions related to the public charge determination. Contact an Illinois immigration attorney for a free consultation at 630-932-9100.
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