On September 22, 2018, the Trump administration, through the Department of Homeland Security, announced a proposed rule that would change how the government classifies an immigrant entering the country or applying for a green card as a public charge. If approved, the rule would also take into account an individual’s use of public benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and prohibit him or her from entering the US or applying for a green card.
Under longstanding immigration policy, the government requires immigrants applying for legal permanent resident status through a family member to prove that they will be self-sufficient once they become a permanent resident in the US. To meet this requirement, applicants usually showed proof of income that meets the threshold of 125% of the poverty guidelines, which is around $25,975 for a family of three. Immigrants who are unable to meet this threshold can combine the income of a joint sponsor with their own.
The Trump administration, however, is considering doing away with the joint sponsor solution and is proposing to allow agencies to do deeper background checks on green card applicants, taking into account factors such as age, education, health, credit score, and even the previous use of public benefits, which could be grounds for denial.
While the landscape of lawful permanent residence in the US appears to be shifting, there are some points to keep in mind through all this.
1. The Rule Is Only a Proposal, and Is Neither Final Nor In Effect
As of the moment, all we have is a proposed federal regulation without a final rule. This means that the change in policy is not yet in effect and the agencies in charge of reviewing permanent resident applications follow the “old” guidelines for determining whether an applicant is likely to be a public charge.
Presently, regulations only prohibit an applicant from having availed of cash benefits. The Trump administration has not yet accomplished its plan to include Medicaid, food stamps, and other benefits to the current one-item list.
2. Benefits Received for Children Who Are US Citizens Do Not Count
Several reports show that even just rumors of the proposed change have discouraged undocumented immigrant parents from applying for benefits for their US citizen children. This should not be the case. Noncitizen parents can, even under the proposed rules, continue to collect benefits for their children for as long as their children are US citizens. Doing so will not hurt your chances of scoring a green card.
Noncitizen parents are, however, strongly reminded not to commit fraud when applying for these benefits. Applying for benefits requires you to present your household income. If you have an undocumented parent in the household and exclude their income from the application, that is considered fraudulent.
3. Receiving Benefits in the Past Will Not Be Held Against You
Collecting benefits that are now counted as public charge determinations, including things like food stamps, will not be held against you prior to the rule going into effect. Having used food stamps a year ago or even using them now, since rule is not yet in effect, does not disqualify you from getting a green card. Receiving these benefits after the rule is implemented – if it even is – unfortunately will.
If you would like to learn more about this latest update to U.S. immigration policy, or have a loved one seeking green card, don’t hesitate to sit down for a consultation with the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to talk to immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.