Coronavirus and the ‘Public Charge’ Bar

Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Will seeking treatment for Coronavirus mean I would be considered a Public Charge?

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages everyone with Coronavirus symptoms to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services. USCIS has decided that treatment or preventive services related to COVID-19 will not negatively affect any applicant as part of a future Public Charge analysis.

What is the Public Charge Rule?

Before granting permanent resident status or approving a ‘green card’ application, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will determine if the applicant is likely at any time to become a ‘public charge.’ A ‘public charge’ is someone who has received one or more public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period.

Public Benefits that USCIS may considered include:

  • Supplemental Security Income;  
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; 
  • Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called general assistance in the state context, but which may exist under other names);  
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps); 
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program; 
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation);  
  • Public Housing (under the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. 1437 et seq.); and 
  • Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions).

Public Benefits USCIS said they will not consider include:  

  • Emergency medical assistance;  
  • Disaster relief;  
  • National school lunch programs;  
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children;  
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program;  
  • Subsidies for foster care and adoption;  
  • Government-subsidized student and mortgage loans; 
  • Energy assistance;  
  • Food pantries and homeless shelters; and 
  • Head Start.  

Public Charge is determined by a totality of the circumstances, meaning that USCIS will take into account the following to see if at any time the applicant is likely to become a public charge:

  • Applicant’s Age; 
  • Health; 
  • Family status; 
  • Assets, resources, and financial status; 
  • Education and skills; 
  • Prospective immigration status; 
  • Expected period of admission; and  
  • Affidavit of Support, Form I-864

Who is affected by the Public Charge Rule?

All applicants for permanent resident status and applicants for extension of nonimmigrant stay or change of nonimmigrant status who applied on or after February 24, 2020, are subject to the public charge determination. However, the Public Charge Rule does not apply for Refugees, Asylees, certain T and U nonimmigrant visa applicants, and certain self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act.

How will the Public Charge Rule affect my case?

There are many different factors to consider in the public charge analysis. Each individual’s case is unique, so for accurate legal answers, consult with an immigration attorney.

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COVID-19 Response Update