We have previously written about how the government has ramped up its scrutiny of green card and temporary work status applications using the public charge rule. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused businesses to close and unemployment to rise across the country. In this economic downturn, many are turning to the government for support. Though the types of government assistance described below do not disqualify most applicants, they should consult with an attorney to ensure that it will not affect their specific future immigration application.
Testing, treatment, or preventative care for COVID-19: USCIS announced that it will not consider testing, treatment, or preventative care (including vaccines) related to COVID-19 as part of a public-charge determination, even if the treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits, such as federally funded Medicaid. If you show symptoms of having COVID-19, USCIS encourages you to seek the necessary medical treatment or preventative services. However, the State Department has not confirmed yet the same leniency for its applications.
Unemployment insurance: Unemployment insurance payments are not generally taken into consideration for purposes of making a public charge determination. Therefore, if you are otherwise eligible for and have earned unemployment, it should not negatively impact a public charge determination.
Recovery rebate under CARES Act: In March 2020, the president signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This recovery package offers relief to those affected by the pandemic. In particular, it provides the issuances of one-time payments called recover rebates. These rebates are structured as tax credits. Tax credits are not considered public charge benefits in a public charge inadmissibility determination.
In all of the above scenarios, it is important to note that not every foreign national will be eligible for each method of public assistance. The above merely provides information about how accepting this public assistance might affect a future adjustment of status or temporary worker application in the context of the new public charge rule. If you are a current client and have questions regarding your eligibility for the assistance above, please contact our office directly.