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Shelley Starkey

Department of State Issues Public Charge Rule

October 31, 2019 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Earlier this month, the Department of State (DOS) issued an interim final rule that mirrors changes to expand the definition of a “public charge,” promulgated by the Department of Homeland Security. Some immigrants are subject to a test when entering the U.S. to determine if they will become a “public charge,” or someone who is likely to become dependent on the government in the future, which weighs against their immigration eligibility. The DOS rule, which has not yet taken effect, would apply to non-U.S. citizens who go through consular processing in their home country before entering the U.S.

The Trump Administration’s updates to the public charge definition now include more public benefit programs than were previously considered throughout the determination process. Additionally, under the updates, an individual will be considered a public charge if they receive one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period. For example, someone who is receiving assistance from two public programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) and health coverage through Medicaid, will meet this definition after only 6 months. A person who is receiving assistance from three programs, like SNAP, Medicaid, and housing supports, will meet this definition after only 4 months. More details of the updated definitions are included in previous Capitol Connector coverage.

Federal judges earlier this month issued temporary injunctions against the DHS public charge rule, which stopped it from taking effect on October 15. Since the DOS interim rule is modeled after the DHS version, it is unclear what implementation timeline this rule will follow. The public is encouraged to submit comments through November 12, which can largely be modeled off comments addressing the DHS version of the rule. Until the interim final rule becomes effective, the public charge policy in the Foreign Affairs Manual (updated in January 2018) applies.