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What Are The 2022 Changes To The Public Charge Inadmissibility Rule?

Under longstanding immigration policy, government officials can deny immigrants entry to the US or prevent those already in the country from becoming permanent residents (i.e., green card holders) if they determine them to be a "public charge."

Over the past few years, there have been multiple revisions to the public charge policy. In 2017, former president Donald Trump revised the country's public charge policy by adding a further inadmissibility rule.

Under Trump's new rule, more low-income immigrants would be denied lawful permanent resistant status.

Following Trump's departure from The White House in 2021, newly-elected president Joe Biden began to follow through on promises made in his campaign to reverse Trump's revisions.

Having a clear understanding of the concept of public charge policy will help you understand its history and where it now stands in 2022.

What is public charge policy?

Under public charge policy, US immigrants who are dependent, or likely to become dependent, on government benefits can be denied visas or permission to enter the country. 

Due to their disabilities or lack of economic resources, the immigrant is considered a "public charge."

The idea of denying entry to immigrants based on becoming a "public charge" was first introduced in the Immigration Act by Congress in 1882. This Act was the first to regulate immigration at the federal level.

The Act stated that the government could deny entry to anyone "unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge."

Public charge policy includes an evaluation of a visa applicant's history that is carried out to help decide if they are generally able to support themselves financially.

A person is reviewed for public charge if they are doing one of the following: 

  • Applying to enter the US on a visa
  • Applying to become a permanent resident and green card holder in the US
  • Defending themselves against a public charge finding amid deportation/removal proceedings

When making a public charge determination, an immigration officer must take into consideration, at a minimum, an individual's: 

  • Age
  • Health
  • Family status
  • Assets 
  • Resources
  • Financial status
  • Education and skills

What is considered a public charge?

When reviewing your green card application, the government must consider your specific circumstances. However, if you are currently using or have used one of these benefits in the past, you may be considered a public charge. 

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • State and local cash assistance for income maintenance
  • Institutionalization for long-term care at government expense

What is not considered a public charge?

Public charge policy does not apply to everyone looking to enter the US. Immigrants, such as refugees and asylum seekers, are exempt from public charge determinations under law. Furthermore, the following benefits are not considered public charges: 

  • Medicaid
  • Other health coverage (subsidies for insurance)
  • Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Housing Programs
  • Subsidized housing programs
  • Section 8
  • Public housing
  • COVID related help
  • Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT)
  • Stimulus payments
  • Child tax credits
  • Emergency Rental Assistance
  • State-based programs
  • Noncash assistance programs
  • Nutrition assistance programs, including school lunch programs, foodbanks 
  • Stimulus payments
  • Child tax credits
  • Emergency Rental Assistance
  • State-based programs
  • Noncash assistance programs
  • Cash benefits based on work or earnings
  • Social Security
  • Retirement
  • Pensions
  • Veteran benefits

Impacts of the 2019 Trump Administration Changes

In 2019, former US president Donald Trump issued a new public charge rule that permitted immigration officials the right to deny green cards to immigrants dependent on certain government assistance previously excluded from the Act.

The new inadmissibility rule included a "wealth test" for permanent residency immigrants. Those dependent on food stamps, non-emergency Medicaid, several housing programs, and more could now be denied residency.

Trump's regulations, which went into effect on February 24, 2020, not only made it difficult for low-income immigrants to enter the US but also impacted the lives of immigrants already living in the county.

These immigrants and their families were deterred from availing of much-needed social services that they were entitled to.

This was due to fears among immigrant families that participating in nutrition and health assistance programs would impact their ability to remain in the US.

From as early as 2017, the Trump administration's intentions to revise the longstanding public charge policy were widely circulated in the media. A lengthy rule-making process followed throughout the next two years, which saw extensive legal challenges to the revisions. 

Ultimately, Trump's new rule sought to reduce the immigration rates of low-income immigrants in favor of those who were more financially comfortable.  

Under Trump's policy change, which came into effect in 2019, only three immigrants were denied green cards. However, these applications were later reopened and approved. 

Biden's inadmissibility changes and current 2022 public charge policy 

As of 2022, Trump's public charge rule changes are no longer in effect due to actions taken by current US president Joe Biden. 

During his presidential campaign, Biden had promised to move toward undoing Trump's alterations regarding the public charge rule.

In March 2021, The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that it would again follow the longstanding policy before Trump's revisions. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that Trump's alteration of the Act was "against the nation's values."

As a result of the Biden administration's revisions, which largely restored rules that had been in place since 1999, immigrant families could access the noncash health, nutrition, and housing support they needed, without impacting their green-card eligibility. 

In 1999, the Department of Justice defined a public charge as "an alien who has become or is likely to become primarily dependent on the federal government" in one of two ways. 

  • Receiving public cash assistance for income maintenance
  • Institutionalization for long-term care at government expense

Along with restoring the 1999 policy, the 2022 changes to the public charge inadmissibility rule also state that those applying for a public benefit and being approved for benefits in the future would not constitute receipt of public benefits for consideration of public charge.

Also not considered a public charge in 2022 are individuals assisting someone else to apply for benefits or being in a household or family with someone who receives benefits.

We hope this article has helped you gain a better understanding of the 2022 changes to the public charge inadmissibility rule.

The team at Meimaris Law would like to offer you further guidance on public charge policy and how it may impact your chances of becoming a Legal Permanent Resident in the US.

Get in touch for a free consultation with our team to start talking about public charge policy.

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