USCIS Statement Regarding COVID-19 and the New Public Charge Rule
Written by Ashik Jahan, Esq. and Cody Hendrix
USCIS has issued a statement informing immigrants who get tested or treated for COVID-19 that they will not be punished when seeking immigration benefits under the new public charge rule that was ushered in by the Trump Administration and went into effect on February 24, 2020. Under this rule, government officials may deny permanent legal status to immigrants they deem likely to need public assistance, such as Medicaid or food stamps. In the past only immigrants that needed substantial, long-term assistance qualified as a public charge, and statistics show that less than 1% of immigrants were ever disqualified under this rule. However, under the new rule, immigrants that use any public benefits, even if not their main source of support, may put their chances at a permanent residency in jeopardy.
The statement made by USCIS was done in the hopes that anyone who shows symptoms or has been in contact with anyone with COVID-19, will immediately get tested and seek treatment to stop the spread of the global pandemic. USCIS stated that they will not consider “testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination.” Lawmakers have praised USCIS in this decision, as this removes a roadblock from immigrants seeking testing or treatment for COVID-19. This decision will hopefully help to maintain the virus, as immigrants are encouraged to go forward and get tested and treated without fear of retaliation or punishment or the loss of eligibility for future immigration benefits.