The changes to the Public Charge rule proposed by the Trump administration have the potential to impact nearly 400,000 immigrants in Colorado, making it more difficult for them to get a green card if they use public benefits. Keep reading to learn more about the new rule, what effects it will have, and what actions you can take.

What is the public charge rule?

The public charge rule is one of the criteria immigration officers at USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) use to determine whether or not immigrants who apply from within the United States for green cards and temporary visas will be approved.

The rule says that an applicant who is “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence” or is likely to become dependent can be denied a green card or visa. This includes applicants who use public cash assistance, welfare (formally known as TANF), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). It also covers applicants who use programs like Medicaid to help pay for long-term institutionalized care. This could be in a nursing home, for example.

The rule uses a number of criteria to assess whether an applicant is likely to use any of these specific programs in the future. USCIS looks at factors like a person’s employment, education, skills, and health. If the officer determines the applicant is likely to use certain public benefits, he/she can deny the application. If so, their application can be denied.

Are many applicants denied because of the public charge rule?

In practice, the public charge rule doesn’t play a major role in most applicants’ cases. There are two reasons for this.

First, most immigrants are prohibited by law from using public assistance. This includes programs like SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, and TANF (welfare). Lawful permanent residents can only use public assistance after five years of living in the United States.

Second, most green card applicants have to have a financial sponsor. The sponsor must demonstrate enough financial stability that he/she would be able to support the applicant, therefore reducing the chance that the applicant would have to use public assistance in the future.

What changes will the new rule make?

There are three major changes the new rule will make.

1. It increases the number of public assistance programs that will count against an applicant and define them as a public charge.

The expanded list will include:

  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • Medicaid
  • Public Housing (Section 8)
  • Federal Housing Subsidies

2. It changes the rules regarding the time frames of an applicants use of public benefits.

Right now, USCIS can only look at whether an applicant currently uses public benefits, or is likely to in the future. Under the new rule, they will also be able to take into account any past usage of public benefits. So if an applicant used TANF (welfare) in the past, for example), he or she could be denied a visa/green card. In addition, the new rule will make the criteria used to determine whether or not a person may become a public charge in the future much stricter, increasing the likelihood that the applicant will be defined as a public charge. 

3. It changes the requirements concerning an applicant’s financial stability.

Currently, an applicant with insufficient financial stability can still be approved as long as he or she has a financial sponsor. Under the new rules, applicants will have to meet income thresholds that are similar to what their financial sponsors must meet now. In other words, future applicants will have to have much higher financial resources.

Who will be affected?

 

Will be affected

  • Immigrants and their families who are applying for a green card/visa for the first time from inside the United States.

Will not be affected

  • Immigrants and their families who already have green cards or are applying for renewal.
  • Refugees and asylum grantees
  • U or T Visa recipients (granted to victims of domestic violence or human trafficking)
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status recipients
  • U.S. citizens

Colorado Residents

393,000 people in Colorado, including 161,000 children, could be affected by the new rule.

 

When will the new rule take effect?

October 15th. Lawsuits are pending against the implementation of the new rule.

What action can you take?

Support H.R.3222, the No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act of 2019

Communicate with your representatives. Ask them what they will do to oppose the public charge rule.

 

Resources cited in this blog

The Public Charge Rule Explained

Protecting Immigrant Families