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Proposed Changes to Regulations Regarding Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds

On September 21, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security proposed new regulations related to public charge grounds of inadmissibility. The proposed regulations expand U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grounds to deny permanent resident applications based upon a green card applicant’s use of public benefit programs such as food assistance and section 8 housing vouchers.  The regulations will also apply to individuals seeking nonimmigrant visas and change of status applicants.

Background on Public Charge:

When reviewing Permanent Residence applications, USCIS determines whether applicants are likely to become a public charge or primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. Applicants found likely to become a public charge may be denied lawful permanent resident status.

Currently, only cash assistance programs (state and local General Assistance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance) and programs supporting those who are institutionalized for long-term care (e.g., in a nursing home or mental health institution) may be considered for public charge purposes. Non-Cash Benefits such as Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Nutrition programs, including Food Stamps and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and Housing Benefits were not included in public charge decisions.

The Proposed Regulations:

The proposed regulations expand what USCIS can consider public benefits when making public charge decisions. Non-Cash Benefits including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section 8 housing vouchers, Medicaid, and Medicare Part D can be included in public charge decisions. Use of these public benefit programs by those seeking green cards can result in the denial of their lawful permanent residence applications.

The regulations will apply to individuals seeking admission to the United States from abroad on immigrant or nonimmigrants visas, individuals seeking to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent residents from within the United States, and individuals within the United States who hold a temporary nonimmigrant status and seek to either extend their stay in the same nonimmigrant classification or to change their status to a different nonimmigrant classification.

The regulations are not aimed at immigrants who already received their green cards, refugees, or asylees. The proposed regulations are expected to become final after being posted to the Federal Register in the coming weeks and undergoing the 60-day review period, which began on September 21, 2018.

More information about the proposed change can be found here.

Implications of the Proposed Regulations:

One concern regarding the proposed change is that immigrants with legal resident status will stop using public benefits in attempt to protect their status. Children who are in the United States legally are predicted to be severely affected as immigrant parents may remove their children from public benefit programs due to the imposed regulations.

More information about the impacts of the proposed changes can be found in following articles:

Trump Administration Aims to Sharply Restrict New Green Cards for Those on Public Aid

Trump Wants to Turn the Safety Net Into a Trap

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