On October 15, 2019, a new rule goes into effect that will apply to immigrants seeking a green card (Lawful Permanent Residence).  The rule applies to cases filed after October 15, 2019 and is particularly strict for those who receive public benefits. Applications already pending with USCIS on the effective date of the rule will not be subject to the rule.

Who does the rule apply to?

The rule applies to people who are seeking lawful permanent residency to enter or remain in the United States, through a family petition or adjustment of status.  It does not apply to certain applicants under certain programs including:

  • T Visa (trafficking victims);
  • U Visa (victims of crimes);
  • VAWA (victims of domestic violence)
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status;
  • NACARA, Refugees, Asylees
  • Certain Cuban Adjustment Act and Haitian applicants,

What does it mean to receive public benefits?

Under the new rule, an applicant who has received public benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period will be affected.  It is important to note that USCIS will only consider public benefits received directly by the applicant for his/her own benefit.  DHS will not consider public benefits received on behalf of another.  For example, a parent will not be punished for the public benefits received by their children unless the parent is also a listed beneficiary of the public benefit.  

What kind of public benefits will affect my case?

Receipt by the applicant of public benefits such as:

  • Most forms of Medicaid;
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF);
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
  • Section 8 housing assistance programs.

Are there any benefits that won’t affect my case?

Fortunately, there are some benefits that are excluded such as:

  • Medicaid for children under the age of 21;
  • Medicaid for pregnant women during pregnancy and for up to 60 days after giving birth;
  • WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children);
  • CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program);
  • Disaster relief, FEMA;
  • Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) subsidies;
  • Emergency medical assistance, school lunch programs, foster care or adoption, student loans and mortgages, food pantries, homeless shelters.

The rule also excludes 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.

My family is receiving public benefits, what should I do next?

If you have an immigration case that has already been filed, the rule will not apply to you.  It will apply to cases filed after October 15, 2019. 

If you are planning to file an immigration case, and you or your family members are receiving public benefits or is planning to seek public benefits, you should talk to an experienced immigration lawyer about your specific circumstances.  Keep in mind that if you apply for public benefits on behalf of another person (such as a child), USCIS does not consider the benefit against you. This means that in most cases, public benefits received solely by the applicant’s children or spouse will not count against them.  However, it is important to verify your circumstances with an experienced attorney. The lawyers at Garza & Associates are experienced in complex immigration matters. Call us at (713) 664-6200 to schedule a consultation.