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Can I get a green card if I receive public benefits?

On Behalf of | Sep 21, 2020 | Family-Based Immigration

Many people who come to the United States hope to one day get a green card. Becoming a lawful permanent resident affords you the opportunity to live and work in the U.S. with few restrictions. It also allows you to bring certain family members into your new life.

However, the current White House administration has implemented some new rules for green card applicants. Anyone who has received public benefits from the government may no longer be eligible for lawful permanent residency.

What is the ‘public charge’ rule?

U.S. immigration law includes a requirement known as the “public charge” rule. Basically, a green card applicant must be self-sufficient and able to support themselves. The U.S. can deny somebody a green card if it believes the applicant will not be able to provide for themselves.

In 2019, the active White House administration updated the definition of “public charge.” Under this new definition, if an applicant has received certain public benefits for 12 months or more in the past three years, they can be considered a public charge. If this happens, that person may be ineligible to receive a green card.

Will this rule affect my application?

Here are some of the benefit programs that fall under this new rule:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also called food stamps)
  • Certain Section 8 and Public Housing programs
  • Some types of federally funded Medicaid

If you apply for these benefits and receive them for 12 months or more, you may no longer be able to secure a green card. However, every situation is different. It is important to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable professional, such as an attorney.

Also, there have been many legal challenges to this new public charge rule. Different courts and judges have issued rulings that affirm or limit the rule. Some of these cases are expected to continue into the future.

This means the public charge eligibility rules can change without any notice.

If you want to apply for a green card and currently receive public benefits, or are thinking about applying for benefits, you may want to speak with an immigration attorney. An attorney will know the current laws, and can help you understand the best path forward – one that protects you and your loved ones into the future.



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