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US plans to deny green cards to foreigners using govt’s help

By Yashwant Raj
PUBLISHED ON AUG 13, 2019 12:03 AM IST

Washington

Under a new rule that goes into effect after 60 days, the US will start denying green cards and extensions of other temporary-stay visas to foreigners who have either used government assistance such as food stamps and housing rent or are “likely at any time to become a public charge”, someone who has come to reply on these “public benefits” and, experts said, could impact Indians.

Experts estimate that this rule, called the “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds”, is the most significant of the Trump administration’s immigration moves and could cut legal immigration by half.

It is likely to impact Indians even though most of them are in the US either on short-term work visas such as the H-1B and on F-1 visas for students, and are able to take care of themselves without assistance from the government. “It applies to anyone applying for an F-1 student visa, or an H-1B, or an extension of such temporary visas — plus applications for green cards by F-1 and H-1B visa holders,” said Doug Rand, an Obama White House official who worked extensively on immigration issues and is the co-founder of Boundless Immigration, a technology company that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship.

“The important thing to note here is that the vast majority of people affected by the public charge rule will have never used public benefits and probably never will — they will be rejected under the ‘prospective’ criteria that demand English proficiency, small family size, middle-class income, etc,” he added.

Though the rule, which will be implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and immigration agencies run by it, will apply only to foreigners already in the US, new admissions are expected to be impacted as well. An experts said the state department “is already applying more expansive public charge requirements to visa applicants abroad, and is expected to fully adopt the DHS standards”. In short, tourists could be put through the same screening process.

The new “public charge rule” has been in the offing for months now and was previewed in the US Federal Register, the official government gazette, on Monday. It is scheduled for publication on Wednesday as a “final rule”, and will go into effect 60 days from then. It will not impact petitions and applications moved before that date.

It is expected to apply to over one million green card and visa applicants within the US and an estimated 13 million more abroad, Rand said.

The USCIS defines the term “public charge” to mean an individual who receives one or more designated “public benefits” for more than 12 months, in all, within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months). And it defines the term “public benefit” to include any cash benefits from the government for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs.

“Throughout our history, self-sufficiency has been a core tenet of the American dream,” Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of the USCIS, said in a statement on the announcement. “Self-reliance, industriousness, and perseverance laid the foundation of our nation and have defined generations of hardworking immigrants seeking opportunity in the United States ever since. Through the enforcement of the public charge inadmissibility law, we will promote these long-standing ideals and immigrant success.”

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