New Rule to Impact U.S. Visa and Green Card Requests

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On October 15, the Trump Administration’s rule on Admissibility of Public Charge Grounds will come into force. This rule allows agents of the Department of Homeland Security to deny visas, residence permits, and citizenship to immigrants on the basis that they may need social assistance.

Initially published on August 14th, this new rule affects those who request a visa to enter the country for work or visit or who wish obtain their green card. If immigration authorities consider that the applicant is “more likely than unlikely” to require public assistance for more than 12 months within a period of 36 months, they may deny the applicant’s visa or green card request.

The government has expanded the definition of “assistance”. The following are the benefits the Department of Homeland Security will consider when refusing a visa or residence permit:

  • Any help or benefit in cash, federal, state or tribal.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which pays benefits to adults and disabled children who have low income and limited resources; and to 65-year-old people if they have certain economic limitations.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which offers help for child care, job preparation and work assistance, to pregnant women or in charge of a child under 19, with low or very low income.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the most important program at national level (popularly known as food stamps), which allows people to buy food through a transfer card, and which benefits low-income families.
  • The Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8), which provides assistance to very low-income families so they can pay for decent, safe and hygienic housing.
  • Project-Based Section 8 Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation), which helps 1.2 million families with low or very low income to obtain a safe, decent and healthy home.
  • Aid for Public Housing under Section 9 of the 1937 law.
  • The Federal Medicaid Medical Assistance Program, with some exceptions: emergency treatments; services provided through the Education for Persons with Disabilities Act; school services or benefits for children of secondary or lower education; benefits for children under 21, or for pregnant women or during the 60 days after delivery.

This public charge rule does not affect beneficiaries belonging to the Armed Forces, nor does it apply to refugees, asylees or immigrants with special visas such as Iraqis and Afghans.

An Attack Against Working Class Immigrants

According to a report by the Guardian, the rumors that led up to the finalization of the rule had already impacted thousands of immigrants in New York City. The rule forces people to choose between using vital benefits or the opportunity to reunite with their families. “Under the rule, a public charge is now defined as a person likely to use benefits such as public housing and food stamps.”

This 837-page public charge rule will take effect in October, even though it was challenged by 17 states. The rule has been perceived as a radical attack on legal immigration that targets working class immigrants. Several immigrants could be penalized if they have received any form of public aid.

As of October, when determining whether an immigrant might require public assistance, U.S. immigration authorities will look into: the visa or green card applicant’s age; their health; their family status; their properties, resources and finances; their level of education and skills; and prospective immigration status; their admission period; and form I-864.

There are several aspects that will work against visa or green card applicants. For instance, if the applicant is not a full-time student and does not have job. In the case of a green card applicant, for example, U.S. immigration will look into whether the person has received aid for more than 12 months within a 3-year period.

Immigration officials might favor applicants with a secure income, who own properties, or who have a sponsor’s support.

Currently, immigrants make up a small percentage of public aid beneficiaries. The majority of immigrants are not eligible for public aid precisely because of their immigrant status. Civil rights organizations fear that the new rule will frighten immigrants and that they will not ask for aid even if they are in need. About 550,000 people apply for a green card each year, and about 380,000 will be subject to this new rule.

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