Wednesday, 21 August, 2019

New US rule could disqualify half of visa applicants

US seeks to curtail green cards for immigrants on public aid Pedestrians crossing from Mexico into the United States at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry wait in line in San Diego
Deanna Wagner | 12 August, 2019, 20:52

Posted to the Federal Register, the rule will take effect in 60 days.

Under the new rule, applicants denied exclusively on public charge grounds will be able in some circumstances to post a bond along with their application.

Though the rule, which will be implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and immigration agencies run by it, will apply only to foreigners already in the United States, new admissions are expected to be impacted as well, because, experts say the state department "is already applying more expansive public charge requirements to visa applicants overseas, and is expected to fully adopt the DHS standards". And it defines the term "public benefit" to include any cash benefits from the government for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs.

It is likely to impact Indians even though majority are in the United States either on short-term work visas such as the H-1B and on F-1 visas for students, and are able to take care of themselves without assistance from the government.

The State Department already changed its foreign affairs manual in January 2018 to give diplomats wider discretion in deciding visa denials on public-charge grounds.

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The rules are among President Donald Trump's most aggressive efforts to curb legal immigration, part of an overall attempt to restrict immigration and benefits in the U.S. They were met with much criticism when they were proposed last fall. Self-sufficiency, however, will not be the determining factor, he said. Asked if this public rule charge is an admission from the administration that congressional action is moot, Cuccinelli said, "absolutely not", and this policy change isn't a substitute for congressional action. Congress passed and former President Bill Clinton signed two bipartisan bills in 1996 to help stop aliens from exploiting public benefits.

The White House for months has been promising to release legislation to reform the legal immigration system, although any such legislation has yet to materialize. Americans widely agree that individuals coming to our country should be self-sufficient, with 73 per cent in favour of requiring immigrants to be able to support themselves financially, it said.

But in New York City, where almost 20% of the population relies on SNAP benefits to help feed their families, officials have found that twice as many "eligible noncitizen New Yorkers are either withdrawing from or not enrolling in SNAP" than eligible US citizens, particularly in the past two years as rumors of the coming public charge rule have circulated, according to an analysis by the New York City Department of Social Services and the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. Large numbers of non-citizens and their families have taken advantage of its generous public benefits, limited resources that could otherwise go to vulnerable Americans, it said.

78 percent of households headed by a non-citizen with no more than a high school education use at least one welfare program, according to the administration.