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Public charge

immigrationBy J. G. Azarcon, Esq.

Under Sec. 212(a)(4) of the Immigration Act, any alien who at the time of application for a visa, or at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible.

The confusion and misunderstanding of the meaning of “public charge” has caused many aliens to shun public assistance that they might have been qualified to received, i.e. emergency and other medical assistance, children’s immunizations and basic nutrition programs.

“Public charge” means an alien who has become or who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either: (1) the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or (2) institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.

If an affidavit of support is submitted on behalf of the alien, it should be considered along with the statutory factors in public charge determination. The determination of financial responsibility should be a prospective evaluation based on the alien’s age, health family status, assets, resources and financial status, education, and skills, among others.

If an alien has received cash income-maintenance benefits in the past or who has been institutionalized for long-term care at government expense, the officer making the determination may not automatically disqualify the alien but rather consider the totality of the alien’s circumstance at the time of the application for admission or adjustment and make futuristic determination regarding the likelihood that the alien will become a public charge after admission or adjustment.

The following are examples of programs that offer income maintenance and institutionalization for long-term care: (1) Supplemental Security Income; (2) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance; (3)State General Assistance programs; (4) Medicaid assistance for institutionalized long-term care.

Receipt by the alien of the following benefits shall not be considered in the determination of the public charge issue: (1) Medicaid and other health insurance and health services (including public assistance for immunizations and for testing and treatment of symptoms of communicable diseases, use of health clinics, short-term rehabilitation services, and emergency medical services) other than support for long-term institutional care: (2) Children’s Health Insurance Program; (3) nutrition programs, including Food Stamps, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children; the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program, and other supplementary and emergency food assistance programs; (4) housing benefits; (5) child care service; (6) energy assistance, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; (7) emergency disaster relief; (8) foster care and adoption assistance; (9) educational assistance, including benefits under head Start and aid for elementary, secondary, or higher education; (10) job training programs; and (11) in-kind, community-based programs such as soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and short-term shelter.


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