Immigrants and prospective immigrants hoping to settle in North Carolina were confronted with a litany of challenges over the past five years. Crackdowns on immigration, fundamental changes to how people were granted the right to live and work in the United States, the difficulties in bringing family members to live in the U.S. and other factors made it a worrisome time. However, much is being done to make the country immigrant-friendly again. One controversial issue was the public charge rule. Recently, steps were taken to replace it and stop immigrants from being negatively impacted by it. For this and other potentially problematic aspects of immigration, it is important to have professional help to navigate the complex terrain of immigration law.
Understanding the public charge rule
The public charge rule is not new. It has been in effect in the U.S. for more than a century. People who come to the U.S. as immigrants and are expected to receive public benefits are generally not allowed admission. The person will be viewed under this rule if he or she is expected to receive public benefits for more than 12 months with any 36-month time-frame. Simply getting benefits will not automatically put the person in a category of being a public charge.
There are exemptions including a person who is classified as a refugee, is seeking asylum, is a crime victim, is a victim of human trafficking, or has petitioned based on the Violence Against Women Act. It does apply to those who are trying to get an adjustment of status and become a permanent resident, those who want a non-immigrant stay extended or want their non-immigrant status changed.
The immigration officer will consider myriad factors based on public charge including the applicant’s age, health situation, family status, financial situation, education, skills, how long they plan to be admitted and more. It will not consider if a person is seeking emergency medical care, is taking part in a national school lunch program, receives SNAP benefits, receives CHIP or uses a homeless shelter. Medicaid is not considered if it is for an emergency, is based on the Disabilities Education Act, is used by those under 21, and for pregnant women or women who are five weeks pregnant.
Current public charge rule set to be replaced
The Trump administration had barred a significant portion of immigrants from using social services. Now, the Biden administration is changing the rule and asking for help from the public on how to do it. Under President Trump, the rules included an immigration officer being allowed to reject an applicant who had already used or might use a social service such as food stamps. Under President Biden, that will no longer be in effect and people may have access to services if they are eligible. The policy from the previous administration had not been used since early spring. Regardless, the Immigration and Nationality Act will still consider if a person trying to come to the U.S. from another country will be categorized as a public charge.
U.S. immigration law is complicated and help may be needed
The back and forth over the public charge rule exemplifies how different philosophies and agendas can trickle down to entire segments of society. In this case, immigrants who were perceived as using social services based on this rule could have been prevented from living in the U.S. or might have had their status changed because of it. With this or any other immigration law issue, it is important to understand the criteria for visas, asylum, facing detention and removal and more. For help, it is useful to have experienced representation from the start.