When a potential immigrant wants to come to the United States, he or she must meet all requirements for the visa or status he or she wishes to obtain. Many nonimmigrant visas in particular require that a person not be (or be at risk of becoming) ‘a public charge,’ but there is some significant confusion about what that actually means.
The concept of public charge has been a part of U.S. immigration law for many years, and is governed by Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration & Nationality Act. What it means is that if someone wishes to immigrate or adjust status, he or she may be denied or ruled inadmissible if he or she is “likely to become a public charge.” If someone has an affidavit of support (that is, an affidavit from an employer or family member showing that the person will be provided for), then he or she is generally presumed not to be at risk of becoming dependent on government benefits.
Certain classes of immigrants, such as refugees, asylum applicants, T or U visa holders, and Amerasians are exempt from being labeled a public charge, because even if they become dependent on government benefits, then there are pressing public policy reasons to keep them in the United States unless they become otherwise deportable. For example, a person applying for asylum would be allowed to remain in the U.S. while his or her application was pending, even if he or she fit the definition of a public charge.
Different Types of Benefits
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) differentiates between different classes of benefits for the purpose of determining public charge. Some benefits are available to all, without any potential negative consequences, usually those which provide non-cash benefits or allow people to obtain them. A good example of this is certain types of health coverage; for example, in California, immigrants may obtain financial assistance in order to pay for insurance, and it is explicitly stated in the guidelines that doing so does not make one a public charge. It is generally in the state’s best interest to ensure that people have health insurance.
Even if a potential immigrant does require and receive cash benefits, that mere fact is not enough to render someone inadmissible. USCIS officers must consider the totality of the circumstances, which means that there are a host of other factors that may affect a decision besides the benefits. For example, if someone receives benefits at the time of his or her application, but is in the process of completing a graduate degree in a highly sought-after field, an officer may allow that person to enter the U.S., since the likelihood of his or her obtaining a well-paying job after school is high.
Seek Experienced Assistance
Sometimes, people need an extra bit of assistance. If you rely on government benefits, you should not have to worry about your immigration status. Still, sometimes, it happens. The knowledgeable DuPage County immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices, LLC are happy to answer your questions and try to guide you through what can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Contact our office today to schedule a free initial consultation.
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