Will public benefits impact my immigration application?

Will public benefits impact my immigration application?

On behalf of Salaman / Henry on Thursday, June 11, 2020.

Many recent rules have made life more complicated for immigrants living in the United States of America. Included on this list is a more detailed definition of the term “public charge.” Now, it is possible that receiving certain public benefits may block an immigrant from getting a temporary visa or becoming a permanent resident.

Here is how this new rule works.

Defining a ‘public charge’

Under U.S. law, an individual that wants a temporary visa or a green card must be “self-sufficient.” That means the person is able to care for themselves, without relying on government benefits. If you are not self-sufficient, the government may consider you to be a “public charge.”

In February of 2020, the administration’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) expanded these public charge rules. Now, USCIS can deny a temporary visa or green card application if that applicant receives certain public benefits.

It is important to know that this does not apply to all benefits.

Which public benefits are affected?

There has been a lot of confusion about which benefits programs may cause someone to be ineligible for a visa or green card. One survey found a significant number of immigrant households chose to avoid applying for certain benefits because they were worried it might affect their future. But not all types of benefits will trigger this public charge rule.

Here are some of the benefits programs that may impact a visa or green card application:

  • Supplemental Security Income (also known as SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, sometimes referred to as food stamps)
  • Certain Section 8 and Public Housing programs
  • Some federally funded Medicaid benefits (but there are exceptions)

Here are some of the benefits programs that are safe. These will not impact an application:

  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Emergency medical assistance
  • National school lunch programs
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Student and mortgage loans subsidized by the government
  • Energy assistance programs
  • Food pantries or homeless shelters
  • Head Start

It’s also important to remember the public charge rule does not apply to citizenship applications.

These are confusing times. It is easy to be fearful that one mistake can put your future in doubt. If you take a cautious approach and find the proper legal support, it is possible to ensure your next step is a safe one.