An American Flag with the words, the public charge rule.

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In 1882, Congress established the public charge rule. This limited visa approval and denied entry into the United States if there was evidence supporting that an immigrant could become a public charge. Public charge refers to an individual who needs public benefits assistance. However, this term wasn’t specifically defined at the time, which led to mass confusion and individuals being barred from entry unfairly.

The Public Charge Rule Today

Public benefits were created to give individuals suffering from financial hardships the ability to survive while trying to get back on their feet. However, just because an individual receives public benefits does not necessarily mean that they are a public charge.

On February 24, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services implemented the Public Charge rule. This new amendment to the public charge rule gives a clearer definition of what public benefits mean and how many will make an individual a public charge. This new amendment to the public charge rule took effect on February 24, 2020, and all applications submitted on or after the date will have to abide by this new change.

This requirement also stipulates that immigrants seeking to extend their stay or apply for citizenship must be able to show that since obtaining their visa or green card, they have not received any public benefits.

Why was the Public Charge Rule Created?

The public charge rule was established on the belief that immigrants need to be able to be self-sufficient and/or will have a sponsor that will be financially supporting them. Therefore, not requiring the need for public benefits. Any immigrants that are unable to provide evidence showing they will not become a public charge, are likely to have their request denied.

Exemptions from the Public Charge Rule

A passport, a gavel, and an American Flag.There are exemptions from this rule which are extremely important to take into consideration:

United States citizens who are related to a non-citizen when one individual in a family is a United States citizen and their relative is not. The United States citizen, no matter how long they have been a citizen, can apply for public benefits without the charge rule applying to them.

Special case immigrants are also protected from being considered a public charge. This includes individuals who are refugees or those who have been granted asylum. For example, Afghans and Iraqis who have special immigrant visas are exempt from this rule. Individuals who have been victims of human trafficking or crime that are seeking asylum or are being protected by the United States Government are also exempt. Individuals who are seeking admission into the country through the Violence Against Women Act are also exempt from being considered a public charge. And, immigrants who are juveniles (younger than 18) and those who have been granted a waiver by the Department of Homeland Security are exempt.

Public Benefits that Do Not Fall Under the Public Charge Rule

Just as there are individual exemptions from the rule, there are also special public benefits that do not count against immigrants. These are as follows:

United States service members, whether alien or U.S. Citizen, will be able to use public benefits without being considered a public charge. This includes individuals who are enlisted in the United States armed forces, both those serving on active duty or those in any of the Reserves. This also protects spouses and children of United States services members.

Children who have been adopted or born to United States Citizens, even if they were born outside of the U.S. The DHS (Department of Homeland Security) will allow these children to receive public benefits, as they will be acquiring U.S Citizenship. This even includes children of United States citizens who are currently living and were born outside of the country.

Public medical benefits, like Medicaid, will also not be considered for the public charge rule as long as:

  • The benefits are used to treat emergency medical conditions.
  • The benefits are used to aid in services and benefits provided to those in connection with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • The benefits are used for school-based services provided to individuals who are at or below the oldest age-eligible for secondary education.
  • The individuals receiving the benefits are under the age of 21.
  • Pregnant women will be able to receive benefits within the first 60 days of their pregnancy and on the last day.

The public charge rule may sound confusing at first, but if you are looking to immigrate to the U.S., extend your visa or adjust your status, the dedicated team at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. can help! Our team will help you navigate through the many different steps of the immigration system and help make sure you are comfortable and understand the process. For more information or a consultation, contact our team today!