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DHS Proposes New Rule to Restrict Admission of Aliens Reliant on Public Benefits

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On Saturday, September 22, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new proposed rule that may prevent non-citizens reliant, or likely to become reliant on public benefits, from gaining admission to the United States.  The new proposal entitled, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” has been signed by the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the proposed rule is expected to be published in the federal register in the coming weeks, according to a DHS press release.

APA Procedure

Once the proposed rule has been published in the federal register, the government must allow the public to comment on the proposed rule for a 60-day period. Once that period is over, the government will have the opportunity to review comments and make changes if necessary to the proposed rule. Thereafter, the government will publish a final rule which will become law 60 days after the date of publication.

Who is a Public Charge?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a public charge is defined as an “alien who, in the opinion of the consular officer at the time of application for a visa, or in the opinion of the Attorney General at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge.” Such aliens are not admissible to the United States on public charge grounds.

Applicants seeking admission to the United States should be aware that, “an alien who is incapable of earning a livelihood, who does not have sufficient funds in the United States for support, and who has no person in the United States willing and able to assure the alien will not need public support, generally is inadmissible as likely to become a public charge.”

The Proposed Rule

Under the proposed rule, a non-citizen can be found inadmissible to the United States if they have become reliant on a prohibited public benefit, or if they are likely to become reliant on a prohibited public benefit. The non-citizen seeking to gain admission to the United States bears the burden of proving that they will not become a public charge to the United States government. This can be accomplished by showing that the non-citizen applicant has sufficient finances to support themselves in the United States, or by presenting a signed and completed affidavit of support.

Under the proposed rule receipt of any of the following types of public benefits could make a person inadmissible on public charge grounds:

  • Federal, state, local or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Medicaid (with limited exceptions for Medicaid benefits paid for an “emergency medical condition,” and for certain disability services related to education)
  • Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps)
  • Institutionalization for long-term care at government expense
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance
  • Public Housing

Extension of Stay/Change of Status Applications: The proposed rule says that, with limited exceptions, an applicant seeking an extension of stay or change of nonimmigrant status will be denied unless the applicant demonstrates that he or she has not received, is not currently receiving, nor is likely to receive, public benefits as defined in proposed 8 CFR 212.21(b).

Public Benefits Received by Children: DHS notes that while the number of children, including U.S. citizen children, may count towards an alien’s household size for purposes of determining inadmissibility on the public charge ground, the direct receipt of public benefits by those children would not factor into the public charge inadmissibility determination.

Receipt of Past or Current Public Benefits: Under the proposed rule, DHS would consider past or current receipt of public benefits, defined in 212.21(b), as identified a heavily weighed factor for purposes of public charge determination.

Please note that although this is still a proposed rule, and is not yet in forced, this new proposal has the potential to become law in a matter of months.

To read the unofficial version of the rule click here.