Sep 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

DHS resumes "public charge" wealth test for green card applicants

US President Donald Trump looks on as Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf speaks at the White House

Presidnet Trump and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration will reimpose a new wealth and health "public charge" test for green card applicants in the U.S., after the rule was previously blocked by a court injunction in July because of the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Why it matters: The rule could have a drastic impact on the half million or so immigrants in the U.S. who receive green cards — the first step to citizenship — each year. 69% of recent green card recipients had at least one negative public charge factor, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

  • Anyone in the U.S. who applied, but has not yet been approved for a green card through DHS on or after Feb. 24 will have to prove they are not likely to rely on certain government benefits in the future.
  • Immigration advocates are also concerned that the rule will have a "chilling effect" on immigrants who are eligible for needed public benefits.

Catch up fast: Under the new rule, factors that could potentially hurt an immigrant's chances at a green card include:

  • Not having an income that is 250% of the poverty line, or $76,700 for a family of five. That means some middle-income families would be hit, since $58,300 a year for a family of five is considered a middle-level income, according to the Pew Research Center.
  • Being older than 61 or younger than 18.
  • Having medical issues, especially if uninsured.
  • Not having private health insurance.
  • Not being a full-time student or employed.
  • Not speaking English proficiently.
  • Having a mortgage, car loan or credit card debt.

Between the lines: A federal judge in New York blocked the enforcement of the rule during the coronavirus pandemic in late July.

  • On Sept. 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York granted a full stay of the injunction.

What to watch: A similar State Department rule is still being blocked by the courts.

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

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