A federal judge in New York has rescinded the ‘Public Charge’ rule that had gone into effect earlier this year, in February. Citing the deadly spread of the Coronavirus and it being declared a pandemic, the public charge rule will not be applicable to determine green card eligibility and immigration visas for the USA till the country remains in a state of national emergency.
The judge pointed out in his order, “No person should hesitate to seek medical care, nor should they endure punishment or penalty if they seek temporary financial aid as a result of the pandemic’s impact.“
A decision that is going to be applicable nation-wide with immediate effect, this comes as a relief to the all non-US citizens and green card applicants who would like to access any form of governmental assistance such as food stamps, public housing vouchers, Medicaid or welfare payments for 12 months without having their immigration status impacted.
The public charge rule allowed the DHS to deny applications for green cards and visas from immigrants or prospective immigrants who relied on or had the future potential of relying on certain government assistance programs and be termed a “public charge”.
To determine if this was the case, a prospective immigrant’s wealth, age, educational skills, English language proficiency and health were evaluated. Any of them depending upon public aid for survival can be deemed a public charge and denied his immigration status.
Although USCIS is going to comply with the federal judge’s rule and not enforce the wealth test, it is important to note that USCIS has already sent out an alert stating that any immigrant seeking medical treatment or preventative services pertaining to Coronavirus will not have any impact on his immigration status and encouraged all immigrants to get tested for Covid-19.
Currently, besides some bilateral travel bubbles, most international travel remains suspended and most US consulates around the world remain closed due to the pandemic. Processing of immigrant and non-immigrant US visas are being done on a case-by-case basis only.