Public Charge Rule Change

Public Charge Rule change to reduce Immigration

It’s President Trump’s mid term already. Under President Trump we have gotten used to extended processing times, more hurdles to jump over, even USCIS given permission to deny an application without allowing an applicant the opportunity to respond and clarify misunderstandings.

And NOW another proposal has been made that will make it MORE difficult to get visas and permanent residency. This rule change may affect 20 million immigrants and what it will do is make legal immigration more difficult. President Trump has repeatedly stated he wants to reduce legal immigration, and this rule change may be the one to radically do it.


Today we are talking about the Higher Standards that are proposed to increase the number of applicants that will be found ineligible because they receive public benefits and are considered a “Public Charge””

The administration under President Trump has done it again. They are currently working on raising the bar higher, in order to restrict legal immigration. This affects those applying for fiancee and spouse visas and permanent residency.

In late September, they have proposed a MAJOR change in the rules of eligibility for applicants seeking immigration benefits. This rule change may affect 20 million immigrants.

Currently when one is applying for visas or permission to remain in the United States, there are various eligibility standards that the immigrant and his sponsor must meet.

One of those standards is that the applicant will not receive welfare, will not become a “public charge”. And the test was that applicants would be over the poverty level, and not receiving any kind of CASH welfare.

This meant that if an American sponsor was on SSI, or receiving any kind of cash subsidies that he or she was automatically ineligible to sponsor their fiance or spouse.

Automatic ineligibility. Bam, no point in even applying. That rule affected SOME, but certainly not the majority of those interested in bringing their loved ones to the USA.

That MAY be about to change.

The new rule is to expand the criteria for what makes a person in-eligible for a visa or immigration benefits. The new proposed rule, and it is still a proposal, it has not made into law YET, is that if the household is receiving ANY kind of public benefits, they could be found ineligible for visa or green card.

This means, those receiving Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program, and several housing programs such as section 8, and so on would make an applicant in eligible. Even if one had requested a waiver against paying a immigration fee, one could be found ineligible.

Worse still, is even if an applicant has applied for such benefits, in the past, even if not granted even if the application was withdrawn, that would be enough to demonstrate that the applicant might in future need some kind of welfare and he would be found in- eligible due to previous applications even for the most minor subsidies.

And even more worse is an applicant can be found ineligible, even if never having applied, nor taken any subsidies, even if income meets the eligibility threshold, IF the reviewer anticipates that possibly, POSSIBLY the applicant MIGHT need subsidies in the future If the applicant is “Likely to need” subsidies he can be found ineligible. And one of the criteria for “likely to need aid” is English Fluency. If the applicant’s english is poor or non existent, that will be weighed against him or her when making an opinion about future likelihood to need public benefits, and could contribute to being found ineligible.

This reminds me of the Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report” where police could arrest and convict before a crime was committed. This could be the same. The reviewer FEELS, using his crystal ball, and the applicants credit report, that there MIGHT be problems in the future, and that feeling, that opinion might be enough to deny.

The background for “Public Charge” is this.

The existing rule makes applicants ineligible if their household income is over 50% federal cash subsidies. This means those on cash aid (such as TANF, also known as “welfare,” or SSI) or long-term institutionalized care are considered to be a “public charge” and thus ineligible.

This proposed rule would change from only excluding those with cash public benefits to an applicant who receives ONE or MORE public benefits including cash assistance for income maintenance, government-funded institutionalized long-term care, and certain health, nutrition, and housing programs that were previously excluded from public charge determinations. These programs would include non-emergency Medicaid, the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and several housing programs Under the proposed rule

1. Receipt of ONE or MORE public benefits from previously excluded programs, including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program, and several housing programs, in public charge determinations could make one ineligible

2. Just applying for any public benefits, regardless of approval or withdrawal of application, could make one ineligible

3. “Likely to need public benefits in future”. Regardless of an applicant’s past actions, the reviewer might feel that the applicant is “likely” in the future to possibly have need, could make one ineligible.

4. Credit Reports may now be required. Too low of a score could indicate “likely” to have need, could make one ineligible

5. English Proficiency may now be tested. Too low of a score could indicate “likely” to have need, could make one ineligible

What can you do about this?

Well, remember this is not law yet. It is a proposal that has recently been aired by the Trump administration.

To turn it into a law should take probably a year or more. First they publish in the Federal Register then they receive comments from the public, then they respond to the comments, and so on and so on.

This is only a proposed rule change. It doesn’t affect anybody YET.

My tip for the day is well if this rule change is something that is going to happen, you have time to avoid it. You literally have a year to a year and a half to get in and out of immigration before the storm hits. So if your finances or credit report is not as good as you would like, if you have ever applied or used ANY federal public benefits, at any time, the best thing for you to do if you can, is apply right away. If you are on the edge to apply for Fiance or Spouse visa, or if your spouse has already arrived and you are eligible to apply for permanent residency, DON’T DELAY.

If you apply now, even if the rules change your application will be grandfathered-in. That means it will be judged based on the rules that were in play when you applied, so that you’ll be reviewed based upon the older original criteria and not based upon this new and very harsh rule change.

By Fred Wahl
the VisaCoach