December 29th, 2009 by Eric J. Ramos
New Public Charge Fact Sheet Released by USCIS
USCIS has recently released a new fact sheet discussing what it means to be a “public charge.” Someone who is likely to become a public charge is inadmissible to the United States. If a foreign national becomes a public charge, he or she can be deported from the U.S. So what exactly does it mean to be a public charge?
Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that anyone seeking admission to the United States or seeking status as a permanent residence is inadmissible to the US if they are likely to become a public charge. Family-based immigrants are required to overcome this ground by filing Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, with their applications for adjustment of status.
“Public charge” is defined to include any individual who is likely to become “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance, or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” That said, immigrants are still allowed to apply for and receive certain government benefits, including disaster relief, treatment for communicable diseases, immunizations, and nutritional and health care programs for children.
USCIS has stated that the public charge evaluation will be made considering the foreign national’s circumstances as a whole, including his or her age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills.
Public Benefits Subject to Public Charge Analysis
If a foreign national receives certain types of public benefits, he or she could be deemed inadmissible to enter the United States. In cases where an Affidavit of Support was submitted, the government has the right to sue the sponsor for the value of any public benefits granted to the foreign national. These types of public benefits are:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Cash assistance from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- State general assistance programs offering cash for income maintenance
- Public assistance, including Medicaid, to support a foreign national living in an institution for long-term care
Public Benefits Not Subject to Public Charge Analysis
Foreign nationals may receive other types of benefits without it affecting their admissibility to the US. These benefits include:
- Medicaid and other health insurance or services that is not being used for the support of long-term institutional care (including immunizations, testing and treatment of communicable diseases, prenatal care, emergency medical services, and short-term rehabilitation services)
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Food stamps and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
- Other supplementary and emergency food assistance programs
- Housing benefits
- Child care services
- Low Income home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Emergency disaster relief
- Foster care and adoption assistance
- Public schools, including benefits under Head Start
- Aid for elementary, secondary or higher education
- Job training programs
- Community-based programs or assistance, including soup kitchens, crisis counseling and short-term shelter
- Non-cash benefits under TANF, including subsidized child care and transit subsidies
- Earned cash payments, including Title II Social Security benefits, government pensions, veteran’s benefits, and other forms of earned benefits
- Unemployment compensation
Cash benefits provided by public benefit programs that are not intended to maintain income, but are intended to avoid the need for on-going cash assistance for income maintenance, do not make foreign nationals subject to a public charge determination.