Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the Donald Trump administration is set to begin implementing its public charge rule against immigrants following its Jan. 27 U.S. Supreme Court political win that lifted the nationwide temporary injunction.
That means immigrants who have benefited from the following programs will now be excluded from legalizing their status or sponsoring a relative even if they only used the programs for a short time.
Any state, federal or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance
Supplemental Social Security Income
Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF)
General Assistance (GA)
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps
Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
Section 8-Project-based rental assistance (including Modern Rehabilitation)
Public Housing under the Housing Act of 1937
Federal Funded Medicaid.
But there is still a small window of light right now.
If you are an immigrant looking to sponsor a relative or legalize your own status and have benefited from federal assistance in those programs, you need to get your application in before D-Day—Feb. 24, 2020.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says for applications and petitions sent by commercial courier (such as UPS, FedEx, and DHL), the date reflected on the courier receipt must be Feb. 24 to ensure qualification under the pre-Feb. 24 rules.
Or if you live in Illinois, you still have a chance since the state has a lawsuit challenging the rule continuing in the lower courts.
After Feb. 24, adjustment of status or green card applicants, including of employment-based applicants such as those with H-1B, L-1, E-2, F-1 visas, who file Form I-485 applications with the USCIS, will be subject to a “Totality Of Circumstances” test.
The only exception will be to refugees, asylum seekers, petitioners under the federal Violence Against Women Act, and certain T and U visa applicants.
Applicants will, after Feb. 24, be required to complete and submit Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, a new 18-page form to determine self-sufficiency in income. The new test will review factors to determine whether the applicant has sufficient financial resources to keep them from relying on government programs. These include the applicant’s age, household size, health, education and skills, income based on tax filing, assets, resources and financial status including financial liabilities, as well as prior receipt of certain public benefits and questions about whether you filed taxes or not.
Non-immigrant visa applicants filing Form I-129 or change of status or extension of status petitions with USCIS will be required to disclose whether they have received, or are certified to receive, certain public benefits on or after Oct. 15, 2019. If the applicant has received any of the above-listed public benefits for more than 12 months and within a 36-month period since obtaining their current non-immigrant status, the request can be denied.
The new application also requires immigrants to list if they have applied for any programs even if they were refused.
However, payment of a bond may be possible to overcome a finding of public charge inadmissibility. The bond process is highly discretionary, with the minimum bond amount set at $8,100.
USCIS has all published revised forms for 12 different applications which can be accessed on its website as it prepares to implement the new rule.
But my advice is to get your application in before Feb. 24 and take advantage of the sliver of light in the continued darkening tunnel for immigrants in this xenophobic administration.
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.