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Proposed Change to Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility

Immigration law revolves around self-sufficiency. Federal laws state that foreign nationals must be self-sufficient, and generally speaking, individuals unable to care for themselves without becoming a public charge are inadmissible. However, the term “public charge” has not been legally defined, leading to confusion on how to determine if someone applying for a visa or admission to the country qualifies as self-sufficient - or not.


To that end, the Department of Homeland Security is proposing a rule to clarify the definitions of public charge. This would allow for a standard by which a foreign national seeking entry to the United States, individuals seeking to extend their stay, become lawful permanent residents, or otherwise adjust their status, is determined to be likely at any time in the future to be a public charge, and therefore inadmissible or ineligible for a visa. It would also render nonimmigrant aliens who are public charges ineligible for a change of status or extension of stay.


However, this rule would not impact groups that Congress specifically exempts from the public charge ground of inadmissibility, such as children, refugees, asylum seekers, Afghanis and Iraqis with special immigrant visas, trafficking and crime victims, and people applying for status under the Violence Against Women Act. This rule also would not impact any benefits received by American-born children of foreign nationals who will acquire citizenship, nor alien service members of the U.S. Armed Forces.


Once this rule is proposed, there will be a 60-day comment period, during which the public can weigh in on the proposal, voice concerns, and submit suggestions. After this, the DHS will release a final rule which will go into effect at a given date.