Legal immigrants in the United States who receive public benefits will face new hurdles after February 24th, when the Department of Homeland Security’s final rule on public charge ground of inadmissibility goes into effect.

The new policy, part of the Administration’s wide effort to reduce legal immigration, will affect immigrants living in the U.S. who want to change their status to legal permanent resident for a green card, as well as foreign citizens seeking admission to the United States on immigrant or non-immigrant visas.

For many years, the U.S. has asked most green card and visa applicants to prove they won’t be a “public charge” on the country, but the new rule scraps Clinton-era guidance that said only the use of cash benefits could be analyzed by immigration caseworkers.

Under the new ruling, officials would deem an immigrant a “public charge” and deny the application if they determine he or she is more likely than not to use one of the considered benefits for 12 months or longer over the span of three years. On certain occasions, those deemed a “public charge” could post a bond for an amount no less than $8,100. Caseworkers would also take into account their wealth, age, educational skills, English language proficiency, and health.

The Administration has defended the new restrictions as a way to ensure immigrants are “self-sufficient.” But opponents believe the policy is an attempt by the White House to circumvent laws passed by Congress by instituting what’s essentially a “wealth test” designed to limit the immigration of poorer people from developing countries.

USCIS said in a press release that it will publish updated forms, instructions, and Policy Manual guidance on the USCIS website during the week of Feb. 3, 2020, to give applicants, petitioners, and others ample time to review updated procedures and adjust filing methods.”

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