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Could accepting public benefits put your chance to become a permanent resident of the U.S. at risk?

| May 17, 2021 | Public Charge

Tough financial times can happen to anybody. As someone who hopes to gain permanent residency, however, you need to be very cautious before accepting any public aid, so that you don’t run afoul of the “public charge rule” that we’ve discussed previously. 

The public charge rule has undergone some rapid changes in the last few years. While the rule hasn’t been eliminated, the current presidential administration has reverted to the more lenient 1999 public charge guidance until new legislation can be put into place. This does allow a number of exceptions to the rule, and requires Immigration authorities to look at each situation carefully and consider factors like whether the condition that caused someone to need public benefits was something that occurred after their entry to the United States.

Does that mean you can accept public benefits and still become a permanent resident?

This is an extremely dynamic area of the law, so it’s wisest to speak to your attorney before you accept any form of public assistance, including:

  • Section 8 housing
  • Supplemental Nutrional Assitance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid (with numerous exceptions)

If you hope to adjust your immigration status and obtain permanent residency, you need to proceed carefully — especially while the laws are in flux.

What kinds of exceptions are permitted under the current public charge rule?

Disaster relief is not a part of the final rule, so those who receive disaster relief don’t have to worry about the impact on their ability to become permanent residents of the United States. Other exemptions include:

  • School lunches and breakfasts
  • Women, Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
  • Emergency medical care that falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education act

There are numerous other situations that may also apply. If you are worried about your immigration status or want to make sure you know your rights, our website has more information. We encourage you to work closely with an experienced advocate throughout your immigration process.