On January 26, 2020, a divided Supreme Court granted the Trump administration’s request for permission to enforce a rule known as the “Public Charge” Rule, governing the admission of immigrants to the United States. The government had argued that it would suffer “effectively irreparable harm” if it could not implement the new rule while it appeals a pair of orders by a federal district court in New York. The Supreme Court issued an order temporarily placing the lower court’s rulings on hold until the government’s appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit and, if necessary, the Supreme Court, are resolved.
The rule that the government will now be able to enforce interprets a provision of federal immigration law that bans noncitizens from receiving a green card if the government believes that they are likely to become a “public charge” – that is, reliant on government assistance. In August 2019, the Department of Homeland Security defined “public charge” to refer to noncitizens who receive a variety of government benefits, including cash, health care or housing, for more than 12 months over a three-year period. The rule also considers factors such as age, employment history and finances to determine whether a noncitizen might become a public charge in the future.
USCIS will probably quickly announce that the applicants should file different forms that were designed to implement the Public Charge Rules. Those seeking visas from the Department of State may soon see a change in the forms and questions asked. Even those seeking to adjust status, apply for a visa, who believe that they have not used any need-tested public benefits should therefore double check before filing any sort of application. Those with pending applications should be prepared to answer questions relating to their financial status at interviews. Those considering applying for subsidized housing, medical insurance or other benefits should consider their options.
As of this posting (January 29, 2020), we are advised that the new forms and procedures for implementing the Public Charge Rule are not yet in effect. For the immediate time being applicants are to continue using the prior version of the CIS forms. If you wish to consult how this rule may effect your personal situation, please do not hesitate to call us at (609) 737-6885.