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Public Welfare Assistance

Public Welfare Assistance and how it can affect your eligibility to adjust status or extend your time in the United States starting October of this year.

Department of Homeland Security will now consider an applicant’s use of means tested public benefits or welfare benefits in considering if the applicant is eligible for; admission to the US, extension of time in US, or adjustment of status. This rule was published August 14, 2019 and is set to go into effect October 15, 2019. This rule has potential to cause people who previously qualified for the benefit they are seeking to no longer be eligible.

For many years, US Law has required that individuals entering or remaining in the United States to be self-sufficient and can deny adjustment or entry if they are considered a public charge. The Department of Homeland Security recently released a rule on how the agency will determine what actions qualify as becoming “a public charge” and inadmissible to stay here. The term public charge, and the term public benefit were previously undefined in the statute. The new rule released by DHS has defined both terms and dictates how applicants using these benefits will be treated going forward. This rule will go into effect October fifteenth of this year and will apply to all applications and petitions postmarked or submitted electronically on or after the effective date. The rule applies to categories of immigrants and non-immigrants alike.

Individuals who have received specific welfare benefits beyond a set point will now become ineligible to extend their stay and change their status. Specifically, immigrants who receive welfare benefits for more than twelve months in aggregate within any thirty-six-month period will now be ineligible to extend their stay or adjust status (obtain a green card or become a citizen). Under this rule each benefit adds up separately, so a family receiving two benefits (example SSI + SNAP) for one month counts as two months of receiving benefits. Once the individual has received twelve months of benefits within a thirty-six-month period, he or she will be considered a “public charge” by DHS and will be ineligible to extend time or adjust status under US Law.

Welfare benefits include any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs.

DHS will consider public benefits received directly by the immigrant, or where the immigrant is listed as a beneficiary of the benefit.

Exemptions have been made to vulnerable populations including; individuals applying for humanitarian immigration such as individuals seeking asylum, Victims of human trafficking T-Visas, Victims of Crime U-Visas to name a few. Furthermore, exemptions exist for US Armed Forces and their families; certain international adoptees; and receipt of Medicaid in specific contexts, especially by individuals under 21, pregnant woman (and women for up to 60 days after giving birth.)

US Law gives the Secretary discretion to admit an individual who would be admissible, but is considered inadmissible as a public charge, by allowing that person to post a public charge bond. The minimum amount of the bond is set at $8,100.00; the actual amount will depend on the individual circumstances of the applicant.

This rule is published in the Federal Register and can be viewed here.

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