PUBLIC CHARGE – Impact on Greencards and Naturalization

Any potential and/or intending immigrant  such as ones with approved immigrant petition (such as I-140 etc) should ensure that they do not become a Public Charge. The definition and interpretation of “Public Charge” is currently being expanded.  “PUBLIC CHARGEIS A TERM USED by U.S. immigration officials to refer to a person who is considered primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.

On September 22, USCIS Proposed Rule 2018 DHS Announced a “New Proposed Immigration Rule to Enforce Long-Standing Law that Promotes Self-Sufficiency and Protect American Taxpayers”.  Full Details about this proposed rule are available at https://www.dhs.gov/publication/proposed-rule-inadmissibility-public-charge-grounds.

Currently it is not clear what all additional charges are added but in general, from a legal standpoint, such potential immigrants must be careful not to become a public charge. Cash assistance for income maintenance and institutionalization for long-term care at government expense may be considered for public charge purposes. However, receipt of such benefits must still be considered in the context of the totality of the circumstances before a person will be deemed inadmissible on public charge grounds.

Public benefits that are received by one member of a family are also not attributed to other family members for public charge purposes unless the cash benefits amount to the sole support of the family.

Acceptance of the following types of assistance may lead to the determination that the individual is likely to become a public charge:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of Social Security Act

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance (part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act–the successor to the AFDC program) (Note: Non cash benefits under TANF such as subsidized child care or transit subsidies cannot be considered and non-recurrent cash payments for crisis situations cannot be considered for evidence of public charge)
  • State and local cash assistance programs that provide benefits for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” programs)
  • Programs (including Medicaid) supporting individuals who are institutionalized for long-term care (e.g., in a nursing home or mental health institution). (Note: costs of incarceration for prison are not considered for public charge determinations)

This is not an exhaustive list of the types of cash benefits that could lead to a determination that a person is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, and thus, a public charge. Readers are pointed to USCIS website at  https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/public-charge

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