Alert: ‘Public Charge’ Rule Set to Take Effect – What This Means for Immigrants

New rule will affect some 1 million green card and visa applicants within U.S. each year, plus millions more abroad

Aug 12, 2019

Visa Denied Stamp

IMPORTANT UPDATE — FEBRUARY 2, 2021: The new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public charge rule, which initially took effect on Feb. 24, 2020, is currently in effect but under review by the Biden administration. The new Department of State (DOS) public charge policy that took effect the same day as the DHS rule was paused indefinitely on July 29, 2020. This page reflects those policies and will not be immediately updated according to the previous, longstanding guidance issued in 1999. Learn more.

Despite widespread opposition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today released its final version of the public charge rule, a sweeping regulation that aims to restrict legal immigration. Once in effect, the new policy could impact more than 1 million green card and visa applicants within the United States each year, plus millions more abroad.

The new rule is scheduled to take effect in 60 days, on Oct. 15, 2019. At that time, DHS could begin denying more than half of all marriage-based green card applications.

Boundless has prepared the short summary below to help you understand how the public charge rule could affect you. Here’s what we’ll cover:

But here’s the bottom line: If you’re planning to apply for a green card, it’s important to file your paperwork right away to help ensure your application is handled under the existing standards before they change significantly.

Boundless remains dedicated to helping you maximize your chance of obtaining a marriage-based green card. We make it affordable to engage an experienced immigration attorney who reviews your entire application and answers your legal questions before you file with the government. Learn more about how we can help, or check your eligibility through Boundless.

What is the “public charge” rule?

Briefly, the new public charge rule dramatically expands the U.S. government’s ability to deny green cards to anyone who uses government benefits or has used at least one public benefit in the past. It also means green cards can be denied to anyone deemed likely to rely on such benefits in the future, based on factors such as age, family size, health, and English proficiency.

In addition, the new rule effectively doubles the minimum income required for green card eligibility. That alone could lead to 56% of green card applications being denied, including 71% of Mexican and Central American applicants, 69% of African applicants, and 52% of Asian applicants.

Finally, the new DHS rule creates uncertainty for millions of current green card holders, who could find themselves targeted for deportation under a parallel rulemaking effort being undertaken — but not yet completed — by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

For the full details, please read the Boundless guide to public charge here (if you’re applying from within the United States) or here (if you’re applying from outside the United States).

What just happened?

Immigration advocates have been fighting the Trump administration’s push to issue the public charge rule for years, and more than 266,000 public comments were filed, pointing out the serious problems with the new policy. (This submission from Boundless ran to 83 pages.)

Despite the opposition, the public charge rule has now been published with few changes from the originally proposed version. That’s the last step in implementing the new rule, which will now go into force 60 days from its publication date (Oct. 15, 2019). At that point — assuming that the courts do not block this new policy — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers will begin using the rule to evaluate green card applications and other visas.

What does this mean for you?

If you apply for a marriage-based green card from within the United States on or after Oct. 15, 2019, your application will be evaluated under the new public charge guidelines — assuming the courts do not block the new policy. If you file your application before Oct. 15, 2019, however, it will be processed under the longstanding rules.

Applications filed outside the United States, however, are already being evaluated not by DHS but by the U.S. Department of State using a different version of the public charge policy that was implemented in January 2018. But DHS and the State Department are likely to integrate their public charge guidelines after the new rule from DHS becomes effective in October.

That means it’s critical to complete your green card application right away — before the change goes into effect. Filing with the government as soon as possible will help you avoid a denial based on the new public charge policy, which creates obstacles even for applicants who have never used public benefits.

The good news is that the public charge rule will only apply from Oct. 15, 2019 onward. If you’ve used public benefits in the past, that won’t automatically disqualify you from getting a green card or other visa.

Remember, not all public benefits will trigger the public charge rule. Again, for the full details, please read the Boundless guide to public charge here (if you’re applying from within the United States) or here (if you’re applying from outside the United States). You can also use resources from independent groups like Protecting Immigrant Families to get additional information about your rights and options.

Above all, don’t delay. If you’ve started your green card application, it’s vital that you finish and file it as soon as possible. The immigration rulebook is about to get a lot more complicated, but you still have time to file your application under the existing system.

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