Being a Public Charge Will Stop You from Getting Your Green Card

296223_empty_pocket_1.jpgYour I-485 application to adjust status to permanent residence can be denied if you are deemed to be a “public charge.” Under immigration law, you are a public charge if you have received public cash assistance to maintain your income or you were institutionalized for long-term care at the government’s expense.

Public benefits that will make you a public charge
Cash assistance public benefit programs that will cause you to be considered a public charge include:

  • Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)
  • State and local government assistance programs
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Programs such as Medicaid that provide support for long-term institutionalized care
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Public benefits that will not make you a public charge
Generally, non-cash benefits will not count toward a public charge determination unless they are for long-term institutionalized care. Public benefits that are supplemental in nature rather than primary income support do not count. These include:

  • Medicaid and other health benefits
  • Food stamp programs and WIC
  • Children’s health insurance program (CHIP)
  • Child care assistance, housing benefits
  • Foster care and adoption assistance
  • Job training programs
  • Emergency disaster relief
  • Energy assistance such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Other community-based program such as a shelter or soup kitchen

Affidavit of Support Form I-864
In certain family-based green card or immigrant visa cases, the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support is filed with the application to show that you have the financial means to live in the United States without public benefits. This form is signed by a person who will be your sponsor and must receive a yearly income of at least 125 percent of the federal poverty level. The I-864 form is required for many family-based preference categories.

Exempt Immigration categories
Certain immigration categories are exempt from the public charge rule. These include:

  • Refugees and asylum applicants
  • Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)
  • T Visa and U Visa
  • Nicaragua and Central American Relief Act (NACARA)
  • Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA)
  • Amerasian Immigrants
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • LIFE Act Provisions
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