The Trump administration has made it harder for immigrants to apply for visas and green cards if they have accepted public assistance or seem likely to do so. People who have used certain types of public assistance could be considered a “public charge,” or a burden on the government, and can be denied visas or lawful permanent residency.

As we’ve discussed before on this blog, the administration has taken an existing rule and broadened it. The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) already limits visas and green cards to those considered a public charge.

However, this rule had been interpreted in the past to refer to people who are primarily reliant on cash support or long-term, not people who merely use these programs.

Many immigrants are eligible for federal public assistance, including welfare (TANF), food stamps (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), public housing and Medicaid, along with state-based programs.

Some courts had blocked this new interpretation of the public charge rule, but those blocks were only temporary until the U.S. Supreme Court could weigh in. Now, the high court has ruled that the Trump administration can enforce the rule while appellate arguments are being made.

Isabel M. has a work visa and is a farmworker in California. When she heard the news that the rule would be enforced, she immediately became concerned. Her daughter, a U.S. citizen, was diagnosed with lupus and relies on a California program for medical treatment. Would her daughter’s use of that assistance jeopardize Isabel’s chances at a green card?

Probably not, since the daughter is a U.S. citizen and the program is California-based, not federal. But her case highlights the many questions that are coming up with the new rule.

The public charge rule does not apply to all immigrants

The Trump administration’s rule excludes a number of vulnerable groups from being considered public charges. The rule does not apply to:

  • Refugees and asylees
  • Military members and their families
  • Most domestic violence victims
  • Most human trafficking victims
  • Special immigrant juveniles
  • Those who receive Medicare Part D low-income subsidies
  • Pregnant women
  • Those under 21 who are on Medicaid

If you are trying to apply for a U.S. visa or green card, you need to be aware of this new rule. Immigration officials will now be considering factors such as family size, credit rating and whether you have ever applied for food stamps or welfare. If you have been on certain public assistance programs for 12 months out of any three-year period, your visa or green card could be denied.

If you have concerns, call Yew Immigration Law Group. We can evaluate your situation and help you determine if the public charge rule will apply to you.