Mar 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Public charge rule could add to visa denial surge

Data: U.S. Department of State, National Foundation for American Policy; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: U.S. Department of State, National Foundation for American Policy; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Even before President Trump's new public charge rule took effect, his State Department was denying visas on related grounds 19 times more than at the end of the Obama administration, a new analysis finds.

Why it matters: Trump's new policies could supercharge efforts to keep out immigrants whom the government predicts might one day use certain tax-funded social safety nets.

The administration changed guidance for consular officials in 2018, which led to a spike in public charge denials for foreigners applying to permanently live in the U.S., Stuart Anderson, executive director for NFAP, told Axios.

  • "The impact was pretty significant," Anderson said. The much broader, more restrictive public charge rules, which are in effect at the Department of Homeland Security as well, could have an even greater impact on immigrants' chances of getting a green card.

The other side: Public charge denials can be overcome if applicants can provide State officials with enough additional information to prove they are not likely to rely on public benefit programs. That's happening more, but overcome cases are not keeping pace with denials.

Between the lines: Approvals of permanent visas for immediate family members of those already in the U.S. have seen some of the largest declines, per NFAP.

  • Families from Mexico, Dominican Republic, China and Haiti received 48% to 71% fewer immigrant visas in the most recent fiscal year compared to the last fiscal year under President Obama.

The big picture: A lot of attention has been paid to unauthorized immigration and border crossings. But Trump administration's "extreme vetting" policies are having a dramatic impact on legal immigration flows to the U.S.

  • The State Department approved 25% fewer total permanent immigrant visas last fiscal year compared to the fiscal year before Trump took office. The number fell from 618,000 in FY 2016 to 462,000 in FY 2019.
  • By 2021, Trump policies are projected to reduce the yearly number of new, legal, permanent immigrants — including refugees, employer-sponsored immigrants, diversity visa holders and others — by 350,000, NFAP projects.

Go deeper: The real impact of Trump's "public charge" immigration rule

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