Public Charge Updates

Sadly, the current administration wants to do everything in its power to limit immigration to the United States. Luckily, the administration often fails to achieve its goals. The latest updates to the “public charge” rules are a recent example.

The “public charge” concept comes from the section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. In other words, the public charge rule is a law, passed by Congress. But the law only explains Congress’s policy or end goal, not the steps that immigration officials should take in applying the law. That is where rules and policy becomes important. The current administration attempted to update its “public charge” rules to make it harder for lower-income immigrants to come to the US. After the administration propsoed its rules, several states, cities, and other organizations sued to stop the new rules. So far, they have succeeded. Four differnt federal judges rules that the new rules were inapproriate and cannot go into full effect. That is good news, but there are still some important points to consider.

Some immigrants are not subject to the public charge law at all. The Immigration and Nationality Act specifically says that individuals with a U-visa and individuals with an approved application under the Violence Against Woment Act (VAWA) are not subject to public charge rules. (U-visas are gratned to certain victims of crimes who cooperate in investigating/prosecuting the crime; VAWA helps immigrants who are married to US citizens or permanent residents and who suffer physical, emotional, or mental violence from their spouse.) In addition, public charge rules do not apply to refguees and asylees under longstanding policy. If yoiu have a U-visa, an approved VAWA application, refugee status, or asylee status, public charge rules do not apply to you at all.

Other immigrants may need to worry about the public charge law, but the old rules contains to apply. Those rules say that you must show enough income from your sponsor so that you will not need government assistance (welfare). If you have received government assistance in the past, that may be a reason to worry. But the old rules (which are still in force after the jduges' decisions) indicate that benefits for medical services do not count. If you have received govenrment benefits in the past, you should speak with an immigrationa ttorney before applying for anythign from immigration.

The new rules are in force at US consulates. The decisions from the judges only stop immigration officials in the US from using the new rules; they do not stop immigration officials outside of the US from using the new rules. If you are outside of the US, speak with an immigration attorney before applying.

The judges' decisions do not affect the health insurance policy. The administration recently stated that it would ask immigrants and visitors to prove that they have health insurance in the US or the money to pay for medical services. So far, the administration has not offered details about this requirement. This is something to monitor until more details are clear.

To summarize, the majority of the “public charge” rules will not go into effect. The administration’s goal was inappropriate, and four federal judges said so. The issue will be debated for months or years into the future. If you have a U-visa, an approved VAWA application, refguess tatus, or asylee status, the rules do not apply to you at all. If you are in the US, the old rules continue to apply. Only if you are outside of the US will the new rules apply to you. And be sure to watch for updates about health insurance.

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