New Rule to Reject US Residency Applications by Citizens That Can Become “Public Charge”

On August 14 was published,  in the Federal Register, changes in the US immigration regulations. Signed by President Trump, the new rule states that as of October 15 this year, US residency applications submitted by citizens who are likely to become “public charge” will be negatively analyzed. This means that permanent residency applications for immigrants who already benefit from a government social program or who are likely to need to benefit will not be accepted.

The new regulation expands programs that the federal government considers public burdens. Some health, nutrition and housing programs are now included as public benefits that the aspiring permanent resident cannot use.

Pedro Drummond, a lawyer specializing in US immigration, comments: “Charges will only consider the use of benefits by the individual who is applying and is 21 years old or older, and will not take into account the benefits used by other family members, including children and adolescents.” The lawyer also clarifies the assumptions that the rule does not apply: “It is important to note that the rule does not apply to cases of green card applications already in progress. It must also be made clear that the use of public schools is not considered a problem, i. e. children in public schools will not give rise to the application of the rule.”

According to a note published in the Federal Register, the new rule expects immigrants to be “self-reliant” by “not relying on public resources for their needs, and relying on their own capabilities, in addition to the resources of family members, sponsors and private organizations.” The Department of Homeland Security should take into account an individual’s age, health, family situation, assets, resources and financial status, education and skills in making the determination.


In November 2018, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) measured the impacts of this rule in the document “Gauging the Impact of DHS’ Proposed Public-Charge Rule on US Immigration”, considering the “totality of circumstances” of immigrants who had been permanently and legally residing in the US for the past five years.

From this analysis, MPI found that 69% had at least one negative factor in the government-proposed test and 43% had two or more negative factors. If the rule were applied to the 940,000 permanent residents accepted in 2017, approximately 650,000 would risk being denied for having one of the negative approval factors and 400,000 for having at least two. Only 39% — about 370,000 people — had one of the heaviest positive factors: income equal to or greater than 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

The Institute’s numbers consider all categories of immigrants except refugees and other humanitarian admissions. In this regard, Pedro comments that “it is possible to understand by a simple analysis that the new rules directly affect the ‘Family-based’ category, but not so much the ‘Employment-based'”. He adds: “The government has made some drastic changes in US immigration. We recently had an important change to the EB-5 program, the immigrant investor visa, and, in less than a month, this new rule to avoid spending public money. I believe these economy-focused Trump management changes won’t stop here.”

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