ACBA
The state Bar of California
Asian American Bar Association
American Immigration Lawyers Association
ATLA
Expertise
Expertise 2021

U.S. Cracks Down on Immigrants That Have Received Public Benefits

Legal U.S. immigrants hoping to secure a green card may now be denied if they previously received certain public benefits. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently implemented a final rule that adds new restrictions for people hoping for an adjustment of status.

Here is an overview of what is changing and who will be affected:

Redefining ‘Public Charge’

This final rule implemented by DHS is based on the concept of a “public charge.” Under U.S. immigration law, a person can be considered a public charge if they cannot provide for themselves and require extra assistance. If the government considers you a public charge, then it can decide you are ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident through a green card.

This new final rule adds specific language to the definition of public charge. Now, a legal immigrant that has received one or more public benefits during a certain time frame may be considered a public charge – and therefore, inadmissible and ineligible for either admission or adjustment of status.

The updated rule is expected to have a particularly harsh impact on low-income immigrants.

Who is Impacted by This New Rule?

This final rule applies to a few main groups of people:

  1. Immigrants legally living in the U.S. who want to become legal permanent residents through a change in status
  2. Those applying for an extension of nonimmigrant stay or a change of nonimmigrant status
  3. Foreign citizens applying for admission to the U.S. on an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa

These applicants will have to prove they have not received any public benefits in the U.S. for more than 12 total months within a 36-month period. Applicants will also have to demonstrate they are not likely to become a public charge at any time in the future. DHS can then use this information to deny or allow your application.

This final rule applies to all relevant applications submitted on or after Feb. 24, 2020.

Some groups are exempt. That includes refugees, asylees, some applicants for T and U nonimmigrant visas, and certain self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act.

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