Green Cards and the “Public Charge” Issue
Posted on June 2, 2011
Immigration Q & A
Q: I am applying for legal permanent residence in the US. I understand that there is a problem if an applicant is considered to be a “public charge.” In the past I have received free health care in Massachusetts. How does that affect my eligibility to become a legal permanent resident?
A: Receiving free health care does not, in itself, present a problem.
What is involved here is the issue of whether an immigrant is ineligible to enter the US or adjust status to that of permanent resident because he/she “is likely at any time to become a public charge.” US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has provided some clarification of what this means. Here is a brief summary:
An individual probably will be found to be a public charge if he or she 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.” An example of this kind of assistance would be the receipt of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. But this is not a bright-line rule. In each case, USCIS will consider a range of factors before deciding, including the applicant’s “age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills.”
USCIS makes clear that non-cash public benefits and special-purpose cash benefits “not intended for income maintenance” will not in themselves raise the public charge issue. Free health services, nutrition programs, housing benefits, and subsidized child care are examples of the many types of assistance that should not present a problem.
There is a huge range of government benefits potentially available at the federal, state, and local levels, and they are constantly changing in the current economic climate. If you are receiving or thinking of applying to receive benefits that you believe may affect your immigration status.
Disclaimer: These articles are published to inform generally, not to advise in individual cases. Areas of law are rapidly changing. US Citizenship and Immigration Services and US Department of State regularly amend regulations and alter processing and filing procedures.
For more news and updates, assistance with your visa needs or for a Free Assessment of your profile for Immigration or Work Visa’s just visit www.y-axis.com