On 12 August 2019, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the publication of its new rule on public charge. In addition to the long standing requirements that intending immigrants must be able to show that they are able to financially support themselves either through a sponsor, their own assets or a combination of both, the new rule penalizes an individual who receives one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36 month period. Public benefits include supplemental food assistance, medicaid, public housing, etc. The new rule extends the term “public charge” to incorporate the types of public benefits an individual receives.
Highlights of the new rule include the following:
- The rule will not apply to immigrants who have been receiving public benefits prior to the rule’s enactment. It will only apply to immigrant applications 60 days from the date of publication.
- The rule closely examines an immigrant’s work history and will consider an immigrant who acts as a “primary caregiver” or stay-at-home parent for a child or person with a disability and which may not result in a penalty.
- An immigrant’s credit score will be closely examined.
- The ability to speak and understand English will be considered.
- The Form I-864 Affidavit of Support will be minimized (applies to incoming immigrants who are being sponsored) and instead, DHS will question “the likelihood that the sponsor will actually provide the required financial support to the incoming immigrants.” Within this determination, DHS will consider the sponsor’s finances, the relationship to the immigrant and whether the sponsor has signed other I-864 Affidavit of Support documents.
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