Domestic immigration policy is constantly shifting and changing, typically with the intention of attracting the best and brightest new residents or workers to the United States. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) help protect current citizens by verifying the background and credentials of those who wish to enter the United States.

In recent years, new restrictions on immigration have included policies affecting specific countries and specific kinds of visa applications. However, on Feb. 24, 2020, a new immigration policy took effect that could have far-reaching implications for immigrants already in the United States, as well as those who hope to enter the United States in the future.

The so-called public charge qualification will restrict immigration opportunities for large portions of the world population by denying the visa applications and status changes requested by those who may eventually become public charges.

Immigration will now favor those with financial independence

Self-sufficiency has always been part of the criteria for those hoping the enter the United States, but never before have the finances of immigrants been subject to this degree of scrutiny. When the government refers to someone being a public charge, they mean that that individual receives certain benefits from the government, such as low-income health insurance benefits like Medicaid or even cash assistance benefits like welfare.

USCIS will now begin reviewing the financial and career circumstances of applicants and any family members who hope to immigrate with them when determining whether to permit visas or allow people already residing in the United States to move forward with immigration efforts. 

You may need to prove you won’t be a public charge

Those already living in the United States may need to show that they have not received public benefits in order to extend their stay. In situations where one might reasonably assume that an individual or a member of their family will become a public charge, USCIS may decline their visa request or decide against a change to their immigration status.

Quite a few people who come to the United States do so because they view it as the land of opportunity. People hope that through hard work, they can improve their lives and offer their children a better future. Unfortunately, the public charge policy for immigration undermines the ability of hard-working people in unfortunate financial circumstances through no fault of their own to enter the United States and eventually benefit the domestic economy here.

Building an immigration case has never been easy, and proving that you won’t be a public charge will increase the difficulty of the process. Those who hope to immigrate may benefit from advice from legal professionals with experience in complex immigration matters.