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Posted at: Aug 13, 2019, 7:08 AM; last updated: Aug 13, 2019, 7:08 AM (IST)

Norms tightened for getting Green Cards

Immigrants availing public benefits can be denied US citizenship
Norms tightened for getting Green Cards

Washington, August 12

Trump administration rules that could deny Green Cards to immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance are going into effect, potentially making it more difficult for some to become US citizens.

Federal law already requires those seeking Green Cards and legal status to prove they will not be a burden to the US, or what’s called a “public charge”, but the new rules, made public on Monday, detail a broader range of programmes that could disqualify them.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers will now weigh public assistance along with other factors such as education, household income and health to determine whether to grant legal status. Much of President Donald Trump’s effort to crack down on illegal immigration has been in the spotlight, but the rule change is one of the most aggressive efforts to restrict legal immigration. It is part of a push to move the US to a system that focuses on immigrants’ skills instead of emphasising the reunification of families, as it has done.

The rules will take effect in mid-October. They don’t apply to US citizens, even if the US citizen is related to an immigrant who is subject to them.

The acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, said the rule change fits with the Republican President’s message. “We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient,” Cuccinelli said. “That’s a core principle of the American Dream. It’s deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration.” 

Immigrants make up a small percentage of those who get public benefits. In fact, many are ineligible for public benefits because of their immigration status. But advocates worry the rules will scare immigrants into not asking for help. — AP


‘Public charge’

  • Guidelines in use since 1999 referred to a public charge as someone primarily dependent on cash assistance, income maintenance or government support for long-term institutionalisation
  • Under the new rules, a public charge has been redefined as someone who is “more likely than not” to receive public benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period. If someone has two benefits, that is counted as two months
Eyeing residency

5,44,000 people, on average, apply annually for Green Cards

3,82,000 fall into categories that would be subject to this review

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