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Public Charge Rule

Prizant Immigration Law

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posted for public inspection in the Federal Register a final “public charge” rule that will dramatically expand the number of immigrants that DHS could deem ineligible for green cards and admission to the United States on account of income level and prior use of certain public benefits such as food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid. The rule will be officially released on August 14, 2019, and will take effect 60 days later.

The rule defines the term “public charge” in the Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives the Department of Homeland Security authority to deny applicants green cards, visas or entry into the U.S. if there is a risk they will become public charges.

The public charge term has historically referred to someone who is “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence” based on their receipt of “public cash assistance.”

The new rule expands the definition to include anyone who receives food stamps, Medicaid and housing subsidies.

Receipt of one or more of those designated public benefits for an aggregate 12 months within any three-year period by any noncitizen will be considered a negative factor in determining whether or not they become a public charge.

The rule contains a list of other positive and negative factors, like age, which will be evaluated together to make a public charge inadmissibility determination.

Additionally, receipt of Medicaid will not be considered a factor for noncitizens “under the age of 21 and pregnant women during pregnancy and during the 60-day period after pregnancy.”

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