As the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S., causing panic and fear to spread among all, there are certain individuals who not only have to worry about what might happen if they catch the potentially deadly virus, but what they will do in terms of receiving medical care. We are referring to immigrants who hope to one day obtain a green card. As you may have heard, immigration officials passed the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule that took effect on February 24, 2020.
The new rule says low-income immigrants who rely on public benefits or will one day need them, will be denied the ability to obtain a green card or visa, even after they entered the U.S. legally. The rule goes on to explain that if an foreign national relies on one or more public benefits, including Medicaid, for more than 12 months within any 36-month period, they could be considered a public charge. Now, there are some who are exempt from the public charge rule and these individuals include:
- Certain T and U nonimmigrant visa applicants
- Certain self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act
After the public charge rule took effect, many foreign nationals have become fearful that if they were to rely on public benefits in order to obtain the medical care they needed, they could potentially jeopardize their chances of making their stay here in the U.S. a more permanent one. It is clear USCIS has become aware of these concerns which is why the agency announced that the Public Charge rule does not restrict foreign nationals from access to testing, screening, or treatment of communicable diseases, including COVID-19. USCIS is also encouraging anyone, including foreign nationals, who display any symptoms that resemble those associated with COVID-19 to seek medical treatment or preventative services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified these as the most common symptoms associated with coronavirus:
- Shortness of breath
In its recent announcement, USCIS also said that treatment or preventative services received for coronavirus will not negatively affect any foreign national as part of a future Public Charge analysis. The rule also “does not restrict access to vaccines for children or adults to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases.”
USCIS says the receipt of public benefits is only one of the many factors that it uses to determine whether an foreign national is considered to be a public charge and that no single factor will be used to make a final decision.
Understanding DHS’s Public Charge Rule
USCIS states that the final rule applies to two types of applicants:
- Applicants who are seeking admission or adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident.
- Applicants who are applying for an extension of nonimmigrant stay or change of nonimmigrant status.
As we previously mentioned, there are various factors that shall be considered when determining if an foreign national is deemed a public charge, including if they received public benefits. USCIS highlights these as the only benefits that DHS will take into account when conducting a public charge analysis:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash benefit programs for income maintenance
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)
- Public Housing
- Federally funded Medicaid, although there are certain exclusions that apply
The following benefits are those that DHS will not consider:
- Emergency medical assistance
- Disaster relief
- National school lunch programs
- The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- The Children’s Health Insurance Program
- Subsidies for foster care and adoption
- Government-subsidized student and mortgage loans
- Energy assistance
- Food pantries and homeless shelters
- Head Start
Now, if you have any questions regarding the new public charge rule or the recent announcement USCIS made regarding seeking treatment for COVID-19, please do not hesitate to contact the Atlanta, GA immigration attorneys at Kuck | Baxter Immigration as we are here to answer any questions you might have.
As the coronavirus continues to threaten cities all across the U.S., it is essential that you and your family obtain the medical attention you need. At Kuck | Baxter Immigration, we also understand how important it is for individuals to maintain their right to apply for and obtain their green card so that they don’t have to worry about being forced to leave the country (i.e. deported) because they do not have the proper documents that legally permit them to stay. With that said, we do encourage you to contact our knowledgeable Atlanta, GA immigration lawyers if you need legal help or have an immigration-related question.
Kuck | Baxter Immigration can be reached at:
365 Northridge Road, Suite 300
Atlanta, GA 30350