Public charge rule takes effect
US IMMIGRATION NOTES - Atty. Marco F.G. Tomakin (The Freeman) - March 1, 2020 - 12:00am

Starting February 24, 2020, the US Department of Homeland Security has implemented the administration's new policy on inadmissibility of an alien due to a ground of public charge. This rule applies to immigrant and non-immigrant applicants for admission based abroad or those aliens seeking to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent residents from within the US. It also applies to applicants for extension of stay and change of status. There are exemptions granted to certain individuals such as US citizens, refugees, asylees, Afghans and Iraqis with special immigrant visas, certain non-immigrant trafficking and crime victims, those applying under VAWA, special immigrant juveniles and those who were granted waiver by DHS.

The rule considers an alien a public charge if the alien receives public benefits for more than 12 months, in total, within any 36-month period, such that the receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months. It also considers the likelihood of an alien to become a public charge which means more likely than not at any time in the future that the alien becomes a public charge. Other factors are also being considered such as age, health, family status, assets, resources and financial status, education and skills, prospective immigration status, expected period of admission, and the sufficiency of the Affidavit of Support.

It is a very new and complicated rule. As it stands now, almost everyone - immigrants, applicants, attorneys, is still trying to weave through this maze. Even the USCIS is accepting questions from the general public for better implementation of this rule. I checked the form to be used which is Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, an 18-page form that asks a ton of questions. It is a very complicated form that I think needs to be reviewed. More importantly, I believe the new policy needs to be re-examined since it clearly places undue burden on the applicants. With this new requirement, it will only make it harder for low-income, uneducated, and less-skilled immigrants/non-immigrants to come to the US.

Consider this scenario: If you want to petition your elderly diabetic mother to come to the US so that you could take care of her in her golden years. She may not have graduated from college, did not go to work as she was a housewife and does not have enough savings in the bank. There is a very good chance that her immigrant application will be denied because of her age, minimal assets, her medical condition, lack of health insurance and the strong likelihood that because of all these factors, she may ask for assistance from the US government.

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