Immigration | Final Rule Announced Enforcing Long-Standing Public Charge Inadmissibility Law

Regulation promotes self-sufficiency and immigrant success

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a final rule that clearly defines long-standing law to better ensure that aliens seeking to enter and remain in the United States — either temporarily or permanently — are self-sufficient and rely on their own capabilities and the resources of family members, sponsors, and private organizations rather than on public resources.

This final rule amends DHS regulations by prescribing how DHS will determine whether an alien is inadmissible to the United States based on his or her likelihood of becoming a public charge at any time in the future, as set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The final rule addresses U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) authority to permit an alien to submit a public charge bond in the context of adjustment of status applications. The rule also makes nonimmigrant aliens who have received certain public benefits above a specific threshold generally ineligible for extension of stay and change of status.

“For over a century, the public charge ground of inadmissibility has been part of our nation’s immigration laws. President Trump has delivered on his promise to the American people to enforce long-standing immigration law by defining the public charge inadmissibility ground that has been on the books for years,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli. “Throughout our history, self-sufficiency has been a core tenet of the American dream. Self-reliance, industriousness, and perseverance laid the foundation of our nation and have defined generations of hardworking immigrants seeking opportunity in the United States ever since. Through the enforcement of the public charge inadmissibility law, we will promote these long-standing ideals and immigrant success.”

DHS has revised the definition of “public charge” to incorporate consideration of more kinds of public benefits received, which the Department believes will better ensure that applicants subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground are self-sufficient. The rule defines the term “public charge” to mean an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months). The rule further defines the term “public benefit” to include any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs.

The regulation also excludes from the public benefits definition: public benefits received by individuals who are serving in active duty or in the Ready Reserve component of the U.S. armed forces, and their spouses and children; public benefits received by certain international adoptees and children acquiring U.S. citizenship; Medicaid for aliens under 21 and pregnant women; Medicaid for school-based services (including services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act); and Medicaid benefits for emergency medical services.

This rule also makes certain nonimmigrant aliens in the United States who have received designated public benefits above the designated threshold ineligible for change of status and extension of stay if they received the benefits after obtaining the nonimmigrant status they seek to extend or from which they seek to change.

Importantly, this regulation does not apply to humanitarian-based immigration programs for refugees, asylees, Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJs), certain trafficking victims (T nonimmigrants), victims of qualifying criminal activity (U nonimmigrants), or victims of domestic violence (VAWA self-petitioners), among others. 

This rule also explains how USCIS will exercise its discretionary authority, in limited circumstances, to offer an alien inadmissible only on the public charge ground the opportunity to post a public charge bond. The final rule sets the minimum bond amount at $8,100; the actual bond amount will be dependent on the individual’s circumstances.

This final rule supersedes the 1999 Interim Field Guidance on Deportability and Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds and goes into effect at midnight Eastern, Oct. 15, 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. USCIS will apply the public charge inadmissibility final rule only to applications and petitions postmarked (or, if applicable, submitted electronically) on or after the effective date. Applications and petitions already pending with USCIS on the effective date of the rule (postmarked and accepted by USCIS) will be adjudicated based on the 1999 Interim Guidance.   

USCIS will provide information and additional details to the public as part of public outreach related to the implementation of this rule. In the coming weeks, USCIS will conduct engagement sessions for the public and other interested groups to ensure the public understands which benefits are included in the public charge inadmissibility rule and which are not.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, visit our website at uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn.


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One Response to Immigration | Final Rule Announced Enforcing Long-Standing Public Charge Inadmissibility Law

  1. c e voigtsberger August 14, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    When ny maternal grandmother landed at Ellis Island in the first decade of the 20th century, her brother who had established residence and at this point I don’t know if he had become a citizen or not, but he had to sign an affidavit that he would provide for her for five years and that she would not become what at that time was called a public ward.

    Fifty years later when I was preparing the paperwork to bring my Japanese bride to the U.S. I had to sign a similar affidavit.

    After our Viet Nam follies, many church groups sponsored the Vietnamese we had abandoned in their war torn country. Those groups also had to sign affidavits of support and they did support folks who had mistakenly thought the U.S. was going to stand by its commitments to the Vietnamese people of South Viet Nam.

    I don’t know when procedure was changed so that someone could come to the U.S. as a non-citizen and immediately become eligible for benefits that should be reserved for the country’s citizens.

    We don’t need to import indigent folks. We don’t need to import folks with rare diseases that require extensive and very expensive treatment. We don’t need to import criminals. We don’t need to import folks who are illiterate. We don’t need to import folks who have such low IQ as to be a burden rather than an asset to our country. We already have our fair share of all those folks among our natural born citizens. There is no dearth of them.

    We have limited resources. It is wonderful to talk about aiding the poor and underprivileged in other lands and if we didn’t have such a staggering debt backed only by fiat money, we might be in a better position to do more about it. Pols in Washington from both parties have kicked the problem of our national debt down the road until it has become of monstrous proportions which really threatens to sink our country.

    We need to tighten our belts and some of that tightening requires that we don’t throw open our doors to all comers. If you are scrabbling to feed your own family and there are days when your own kids go without food, you really shouldn’t be generously handing out food you have taken out of the mouths of your children to strangers passing by. The same applies to nations. We have needy citizens. We have citizens who are skimping on health care. We have citizens who for whatever reason have not achieved the level of education necessary to obtain meaningful, gainful employment in a rapidly changing employment environment. We need to reduce those numbers. We don’t need to increase them. If immigrants can’t support themselves in this country or if someone is not willing to support them, then they really should stay back in the old country where they at least are not in a strange, bewildering environment where they can’t cope without public assistance.

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